Written by Ankush Jain
I used to see stress as either a bad thing or a good thing. Stress was either the thing that was stopping me from higher performance or the thing that pushed me to achieve my goals. There is nothing really new in this way of looking at stress. However, a few years ago I came across a radical approach to stress that completely changed my relationship to stress and also positively affected my performance in every area of my life.
My previous relationship to stress was either working out what to do with it once it has appeared in my life (such as relaxing or going to the gym) or looking a bit deeper at what appeared to create the stress in my life (my job, my family, girls or lack of girls) and trying to change or manage those circumstances to reduce the stress in my life.
What I was made aware of was the role of thought in the creation of stress. Not only was thought important, it was in fact the only thing that caused stress. Stress couldn’t be created by deadlines, being late or moving house. Now it is true that certain events seem to be more stressful than others. Dismissal from work or redundancy is something that is cited as a particularly stressful event. However, why is it that some people freak out about losing their job, take it really badly and constantly imagine the worst scenario whereas others in the exact same situation seem to handle it with ease and can even get a better job offer in the process. Well, they just think about the same situation differently.
I realised I had completely underestimated the role of thought on my stress levels and as I became more aware of this the easier I began to handle situations that previously looked stressful to me. I remember life became far more effortless and others noticed I managed to remain far calmer under pressure. So what can you do to change your relationship to stress?
Here are my 5 top tips:
1) Look at the role of thought in your feeling stressed – If it looks to you like your stress is coming from the situation you are in, or a person in your life or from some past experience take a moment to examine what role thinking has on you feeling stressed.
2) Would everyone in the world feel the same? – Whilst it can often look like we have no choice but to feel stressed, it is helpful to ask yourself, would every single other person on the planet feel the same as you given the same set of circumstances. Even if 99% would be 1% might not, then that opens your mind up to a different way of looking at things.
3) Give yourself space – It is often tempting to analyse and over analyse the situation you are in, replaying things in your head and talking (or complaining) to everyone who will listen. If you are doing this, give yourself a break (and those around you) by taking a mental time out as best as you can. This opens us mental space for new thoughts to come in.
4) Go for a walk – As well as mental space, it can be helpful to give yourself some physical space. Being away from the familiar people and surroundings can help your mind quiet. Remember the aim is to slow down. Don’t add going for a walk to your to-do list as it will just add to the stress. Instead give yourself a breather.
5) Be proactive – Be aware of the feeling of stress and be proactive about it. If you start feeling stressed, anxious and things getting a bit much, it is tempting to simply get your head down and not say anything hoping it will resolve itself. Be proactive in realising when you are getting stressed and try the four points above.
For more information on stress, contact Ankush via his website, www.ankushjain.co.uk