How to handle stress. Whilst out here on my travels I've been deliberating on this question a lot. Part of the reason why I've taken time out to go traveling is because I was feeling the physical effects of stress in my life.
I've asked many people the same question, what are their coping strategies for stress and have never gotten the same answer twice.
In this article, I'm going deep in the weeds. I want you to grab a mint tea and put that Bladerunner rain meditation track on YouTube. (Not the Hans Zimmer one). I'm going to give you all the information I have on how to reduce stress in your life.
What are you really worried about?
After reading The Art of the Good Life by Rolf Dobeli, I've adopted one practice that I really want you to try. It's called the worry bucket. You take ten minutes out of your day. Do it on your commute to work. And write down what's on your mind. The things that are causing you anxiety.
Is it your job?
Is it a reunion?
Is it a relationship?
Not being able to afford rent?
What's the worst case scenario?
I was given this advice when I was in my teens. What's the worst that could happen? I had real trouble asking girls out. Before the days of Tinder and Facebook, talking to a girl was a massive deal.
Without knowing it, I was already displaying symptoms of anxiety. The pressure of chatting to girls was building like an inferno in my guts. What if I run out of things to say? What if she says no to me asking her out. Hell, what if she says yes?
I was too young to implement the worst case scenario strategy. I didn't have the clarity of mind to initiate logic as a means to resolving anxiety.
However, now if I use this following algorithm into a thought experiment:
FEELINGS: (Start at the beginning, what are your immediate thoughts on how you're presently feeling).
Anxious, worried, restless, scared.
BECAUSE OF THIS PROBLEM: (Isolate one problem at a time).
WORST CASE SCENARIO:
Isolation. Will be left alone. Will have to start all over again. Will lose a best friend.
STRESS PROGNOSIS: (How is this problem going to affect you if the worst happens).
Rejection, heartache, insecure, lack of confidence.
Right away you've identified your immediate problems and compartmentalised some actualities. Did you notice that in the worst case scenario that no one died? Did you notice that there was nothing in the stress prognosis that can't resolved time or without some intestinal fortitude?
If you imagine the worst case scenario for all the things that are causing you stress and anxiety, you might find they fall woefully short of the obstacles you've overcome in the past.
How you can manage stress on a physical level?
There's something cool that humans can do when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety. It's what differentiates us from the animal kingdom. Well, and the fact we use cutlery.
As humans we can control our breathing in the way animals can't. Sure dogs open their mouths to cool from the heat. However, when we control our breathing we can control our fear.
There's a reason why Yoga and meditation focus on the breathing. Breathing can override the reptilian side of the brain that is reminding your subconscious-self of all the nasty things that are happening in the world.
Breathing slowly and deeply harnesses that fear. It's going deeper into the side of the brain that has the brain stem, this defuses the reptilian side of the brain, almost making it obsolete.
Life coach Martha Beck, Ph.D. also advises us to first focus on our body and take the attention off the situation that’s stressing you by getting physical distance.
Imagine you're in a hostile situation, a board meeting, an inquisition. Simply ask to take a nature break and spend a minute in the rest room.
Observe the stories you're telling yourself
Most glib listicles such as 10 ways to manage stress, will all have this common denominator; observe your own thinking.
If there is no physical threat in the room, if you're not all of a sudden face to face with an escaped big cat from London Zoo, then your stress is an illusory fixation. You're telling yourself you need to be worried about such and such.
Perhaps the stress is genuine, like. 'How am I going to deliver this speech?' Or 'How will I be able to tell my partner that I've deleted the entire contents of her hard drive?’
These are all stories that we tell ourselves. This is the narrative that our mental health is governed by. If you are constantly the barer of bad news and pessimism to your conscious self, then you're going to exude all the classic symptoms of stress.
What are the causes of stress on your body?
I've dug deep here and looked into scientific studies on stress. In a nutshell your body will react in many different ways when it's under mental or physical duress.
You might be prone to bouts of acne. Headaches, lack of sleep, the urge to consume more alcohol.
Does any of that sound familiar? Also does any of that sound like a recipe for success?
You could also incumber back pains due to an increase level of cortisol. Inevitable depletions in energy. Libido.
Jesus, not the libido, please!
Digestive disorders become more frequent in people that are experiencing high levels of anxiety. Heart fluctuation and good old fashioned depression which as we know, can be like a whirlpool into a plughole of mental sludge and general crap.
What can I do?
You can start by talking about it to people. Sharing your thoughts with loved ones. Calling people up on the phone you've not spoken to in a long time.
Do your own research. Spend 20 minutes on Google, YouTube, chat forums. See how stress is effecting other people and ask questions of how they overcome their life adversities.
Always seek counsel from your local GP.
Lastly, give me a call brother. Or leave a message or comment in the box below. Drop me a line on my social channels. I'm Mr Responsive when it comes to this and am genuinely wanting to start making my own platform a place for people to come and start feeling better about themselves.