The answer to stress less will surprise you!
When stressed, most people try to avoid it at all cost and it is not something we want to experience and it is often something we try to control by having different strategies.
Here are a few ineffective ways we try to control stress:
Common ineffective ways we try to control our stress is by
- Keeping busy
- Reassurance seeking
- Using Substances
We try to avoid situations where we might feel stressed despite some things in life being unavoidable.
Some people keep themselves very busy by keeping their minds from thinking about the situation that causes stress.
Some people like to monitor certain things compulsively. An example could be a person looking at a heart rate monitor to try and avoid another heart attack or checking your partner’s phone because of distrust in the relationship.
Some people like to hear other people’s opinions regarding possible solutions to the stressful problem. This might become endless conversations and opinions which creates more uncertainty.
The use of substances is a well-known mechanism to deal with stress. However, the use of substances mostly have unfortunate consequences that go along with it.
The above are all unsustainable short term solutions!
These are all unsustainable short term solutions!
Although the above ways might help to control stress they are normally short term solutions. Often you have to repeat these strategies over and over again at a definite emotional cost. Not only do you have to repeat these strategies but it might even increase your stress!
Stress is normally seen as a “problem” but is it wise to see stress as such?
Stress is a normal and necessary response to our functioning as human beings. Therefore, if you want to solve stress as a “problem” it means that you are trying to solve something that is very normal and necessary.
Your mind does not want to repeat past mistakes or have you feeling hurt again. It would therefore not allow you to perceive certain events without feeling stressed as it remembers the past experiences.
This can be useful in the right situations!
There is an optimum level where performance is enhanced by stress and shown by the response curve (Nixon 1979) as adopted from the Yerkes -Dobson law.
Good stress thus helps us to perform up to a certain point but unfortunately, if it is not handled effectively “Good stress” can turn into “Distress”.
The one thing you can do to manage your stress more effectively.
ACCEPT YOUR STRESS!
Accepting your stress might seem unconventional but hear me out!
When I recommend accepting your stress I am not talking about resignation to become a victim to it or the circumstances surrounding it.
I am simply recommending you to FEEL it as it is and not as what your mind says it is. Your mind might be distorting your current stress with past experiences unfairly.
Let me give you an example:
Imagine you are stressed about a presentation that you need to give to an important audience. Your mind might give you a thought “I should not feel anxious as they will see it and think I am incompetent”.
Believing this thought might be counterproductive in lowering your anxiety.
A better approach would be to accept that giving the presentation will go along with anxiety and that it is a sign that you care about the outcome.
When you accept the feeling you can direct your attention to more controllable things surrounding the presentation and be more present to the audience.
It is a worthwhile pursuit to become more mindful of the difference between stressful feelings that you experience and the stories that your mind attach to it.
Acceptance doesn’t mean you need to “like” or “want” your stressful feelings. Liking and wanting is more about the stories surrounding the feelings. It is simply to have what you feel without struggling with it.
Russ Harris has a good video to illustrate this.
“Get out of your mind and into your life” Steve Hayes
An attitude of curiosity towards your own stress will give you a better repertoire to deal with it effectively than judging it as a “problem”.
What if you start liberating yourself today by giving yourself permission to feel what you feel. There is more freedom in choosing what you are going to do with stress compared to being caught up on how the feeling “should” be. One of the many books written by Steve Hayes has a very apt title:
Let us do so!