Stress is endemic. Everyone has experienced it. Mental Health issues have been linked to it and today it even seems to be affecting children.
Solutions abound from working out to taking valium. But statistics point to the problem getting worse, not better. Which tends to suggest that mainstream solutions aren’t working.
Now, I have to admit that, the one time I took valium, which was for back pain, I felt great. Not only did the pain go away but I felt like nothing really mattered and that all the stress in the world would not have touched me. So it worked OK, but I suspect you know that the implications of using drugs as a cure for stress, rather than as temporary relief, are not really practical. That probably goes for gin and tonic too.
Exercise also works well, but, let’s face it, it makes you feel good for a while and then the effect wears off. Other distraction techniques like parties, TV and having fun are similar. Great, but only as an interim measure.
So how, exactly, do we get to the root cause of stress and deal with its source? Is it even possible? Well, the answer is YES, it is possible and I know this from my own experience and that of many clients.
And the how is really simple. I said simple, not easy, though sometimes it’s easy too.
First let’s get into some basic psychology: When we’re experiencing stress, we’re subject to repeating pattern of thoughts and feelings. “This is too much; you’re not listening to me; I can’t do it; I hate doing it; I hate them; why are they doing this to me; they hate me; my job’s on the line; there’s no end to it; you don’t understand; I feel stupid; I’m confused… et cetera ad infinitum” I’m sure you have plenty more you could add.
All of these thoughts trigger feelings of doubt, fear, anger, frustration, hopelessness etc. which we can roll up into the single word: Stress.
So now we’re faced with 2 possibilities (other than distraction):
- Change our circumstances
- Change our thinking
Option 1 can be a game-changer, but how often have you made a change to your situation, only to find that all the baggage from the old situation pops up to say hello once you’re settled in? You change jobs to find that completely different people evoke the very same reactions in you. How often do you see others change their relationships to find the new partner appearing to create the same dynamics that wrecked the previous relationship?
The reason that No.1 is not a reliable solution to stress is:
Stress is an emotional consequence of the thoughts we choose.
The reality is that the thoughts and feelings we attribute to others’ behaviour has got nothing to do with them at all! It seems so because we live in the illusion that our thinking/feeling worlds are driven by circumstance. Whereas the exact opposite is true.
The entire drama of life is played out in our minds, not out there. The only choice we have in life is what we invest our attention in. If we invest it in negativity, we will experience negative emotion and the pain that goes with it, independently of our situation. That is why, when you put 2 people in the same situation, they may respond totally differently.
So No.2 is the only way to kill stress at source. It’s done by consciously choosing not to feed the repeating patterns of thought and feeling that make us feel bad. Here’s how you do it:
- Identify the apparent cause of the stress and articulate it to yourself e.g. “I can’t do this”. Write it down to objectify it – see it as separate from you. Feel the feeling of it e.g. failure, fear etc.
- Make a conscious decision to replace that thought with its opposite: “I can do this”. Every time it pops up, replace it as quickly as you can. Feel the feelings of the new thought: success, fulfilment.
- Rinse and repeat.
Now, I completely get the fact that you might be thinking: “Is that all? That’s not going work, it’s too simplistic.” I used to think the same, until I started putting it into practice, properly. Most of us expect the revelations to be in the method – they never are, they’re in the practice.
This practice, together with any wholehearted attempt to take conscious responsibility for the thoughts and feelings we pay attention to, is not just game changing, it’s life changing. But be aware that for many of us persistent practice is what is needed to counter the decades of habit that runs our lives.
If you’d like to know more about this approach – the only effective and sustainable method to dealing with stress – book a free call (button below) and let’s have a chat with no strings attached.
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I’m Chris Pearse and I help CEOs, Directors, Business Owners and Entrepreneurs achieve freedom, purpose and profit. I show you how the levers for change lie with your inner dynamics – your thinking and feeling worlds – so you become the architect of your experience, not a victim.