We’ve all had the experience of feeling stress or anxiety. Some more intensely, some more frequently than others, but to a greater or lesser degree we’ve all had the experience. Sometimes triggered by exams, sometimes relationships or work. Sometimes the catalyst can be money or some unexpected turn of events in life.
For most, the difficulty of dealing with stress comes from believing that stress is something you have, when the reality is it’s something you do.
If you’re car breaks down, it does not have the ability to install stress in to the driver. This is not a function that car manufacturers spent months refining, to get a proportionate amount of stress installed that reflects the severity of the breakdown… An evening of uncontrollable crying for a flat tyre, and six weeks bed rest when your ‘big end’ goes (is that even a thing?).
The bank in your country does not look at the financial state of the country and determine interest rates, retail performance index and stress algorithms, then promptly send out a letter giving you the required 28 days notice that you will be required to repay your overdraft, pay the interest on your credit card and fulfil the ‘Stress Clause’ of your loan agreement (stress may go down as well as up. Levels depend on your individual circumstances. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up stress or other emotion secured on it. Not experiencing enough stress may lead to an anxiety penalty fee).
Stress & anxiety, whilst having physical symptoms, starts with what we are doing on the inside. Our experience of the world we live in is based, not on what happens to us, but on how we internalise that experience, or to put it another way, what meaning we attach to the events that happen around us.
Following on from the example above, when your car gets a flat tyre, what we do on the inside is we attach a meaning to the event… this means I’ll be late for work, which means my boss will discipline me, which means I won’t get the raise I deserve, which means I won’t be able to go on holiday… and so on…
But all of this is just a story we are telling, and then behaving as if it’s already happened…
Flat tyre = No Holiday = stress & anxiety!!!
But what if you use the time waiting for the recovery vehicle to review the presentation you’re giving this afternoon, which means your delivery will be first class, which means your boss will look good to his or her boss, which means you’ll get double the raise you’d hoped for, which means 5 nights in Majorca has just become 2 weeks in the Caribbean!
… But it’s still just a flat tyre, it’s the meaning we attach to it!
There are numerous parables demonstrating this understanding, from Paulo Coelho’s recounting of a Sufi tale to the tale of competing shoe salesmen visiting Africa, and they all show that how we feel is not dictated by events, but what we think of those events, and it is down to us to decide how we choose to feel about those events. As one of my teachers says it’s up to you to find the lesson or the blessing…
Take a little time to ‘do’ relaxed, because it’s like any muscle – the more you flex it the stronger it becomes. You might enjoy our free relaxation download… just a thought! 😉