No one wants to talk about stress, right? Most of us view stress as an inevitable part of having a full life. In fact, if you were to tell a friend that you have been under a lot of stress lately your friend might inquire about the circumstances and that would be the end of it. Your friend would most likely agree that stress is the appropriate response to those circumstances. No questions asked.
Today, however, we are going to question further and turn this idea of stress on its back to take a look at the underbelly. By the end of this exploration, you will not look at stress in the same debilitating way ever again. Sound good? Let’s go.
First we have to ask the question; what is stress, anyway? We throw the word around a lot in our culture, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself what it is? Most often you will hear people say things like, “Yeah, I’m just stressed”, and you might just nod to them knowingly. But today, let’s get curious and begin to ask some questions about what stress is and what we can do about it. Stress isn’t something that just happens in life. Stress has a cause and I would like to suggest that it doesn’t come from your circumstances.
I would argue that stress is your body’s physical response to your thoughts about the circumstances in your life.
Let’s break this down: When you are talking about stress, what are you really talking about? It is either an emotional state like anxiety or a physical state like shoulder tension. What is actually causing that emotional or physical state? Some might say it is the circumstance itself causing it. But how would you explain the fact that there are a wide variety of responses to a circumstance?
When you break it down, it’s not the 10+ things that are causing the stress, but rather the belief about getting it all done. For instance, one person might think that having a long list of “to do’s” is no problem whereas someone else might question their ability to attack such a list. Do you see what I am getting at here? A circumstance is always just a circumstance. It is 100% neutral and never a problem. It only becomes a problem when you add thoughts or beliefs around it.
This is very empowering news, is it not? Because you can’t always change your circumstances, but guess who is in charge of your thoughts and beliefs about the circumstances? YOU, that’s who. Now you have some wiggle room, you see? If stress is coming from your thoughts, who is really in control of the stress?
Here is the exercise that will change your life forever, if you use it! I call this exercise “Thinking On Purpose”
The next time you are feeling stressed, ask yourself is this simple question, “what am I thinking about this situation that is causing me stress?” Whatever it is, write it down. It may even be a whole collection of thoughts like: “I don’t know how. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have any help. It’s too much.” Once you have your list, take a look at it and notice how each of these thoughts on your list are causing you stress. It’s crazy, right?
Now, decide what you would rather be feeling right now and write that list down. It will look something like, “Relaxed, calm, confident, excited, motivated, inspired”. Once you have your list, pick one or two feelings that you really want to focus on then ask yourself, “What do I need to be thinking that will produce these emotions instead?” Write down your answer. An example might be, “It’s all going to work out. All I have to do is take it one step at a time and I will get there.”
The final step is to decide to think these new more relaxing thoughts, instead of the thoughts that are causing you suffering! Voila! You are now thinking on purpose instead of being run by your subconscious thoughts.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can always adjust my sails to reach my destination” –Jimmy Dean
If you are struggling with how to apply this technique to your current life circumstance, sign up for a life coaching session with me and I can help guide you through the process to get you to the other side of whatever might be causing you stress or keeping you from moving forward in your life!
Cathy Walker BA, L.Ac, LMT, Certified Life Coach