The Unconventional Guide to Managing your Stress

South Africa is classified as the second most stressed country in the world. It is clear our stress levels are increasing. This is not only a local phenomenon but globally year after year people’s stress levels are increasing.

The irony is the ‘stress industry’ is growing, yet people are more stressed. Is life more stressful in the modern era? 

I don’t necessarily think so. Statistics show that we enjoy longer lives than our ancestors.  Maybe the reason our stress levels are increasing something to do with our perceptions and relationships towards stress. Research will suggest it might be. 

What is stress?

Stress is how your body and psychology responds to any demand. It is how you holistically respond to any demand in your environment. It is therefore a natural response. A response that made our ancestors survive. So it might not be that bad. 

Conventional wisdom for managing stress

The conventional wisdom is to avoid anything that causes stress. But this might be part of the problem. 

The more you try to stay away from stress, the more narrowed your life becomes. You then stay away from the activities that bring your meaning and purpose. 

It is this narrowing experience in the wrong context which causes stress to be bad. 

Therefore, the unconventional guide to stress then is to accept it, and align it with purpose and meaning. 

 

The unconventional guide is to managing stress:

 
Have you ever been given a dirty piece of candy by a toddler? I am yet to see an adult refuse to accept this well intentioned gift. In that moment something magical happens. When accepting this dirty candy people connect to something more meaningful bigger than themselves. They connect to a value like altruism and goodwill towards the child. In that moment you will tolerate and accept the yucky thing for something bigger.
 
What will happen if you view your stress as a dirty piece of candy given to you? Instead of pushing it away or trying to control it, you accept it like a gift. A gift that reminds you of something meaningful
 
Align your stress to something that is bigger than yourself. Aligning your stress as a signal and a tool to get you closer to something that gives your purpose and meaning. 
 
Don’t get rid of stress; change your relationship with it. Align it with something that gives you purpose and meaning.
 

Questions you can ask yourself to accept and change your relationship to stress:

  • If you could make room for this stress, what would that enable you to do that matters in your life?
  • If you could use this stress to help others who are suffering, how might you go about doing so?
  • What might this stress be revealing that you care about?
  • If you pull away from this stress, what else might you be turning away from that matters to you?
  • How would your life be different if you were willingly open to having this stress?
  • How might experiencing this pain right now be of value to you in the future?
 
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