Would you like to know how to control stress and diminish overwhelm and anxiety? If someone had asked me this years ago my hand would have shot up in an instant. Stress, anxiety, struggle, overwhelm and frustration were my ever present companions. Is your life feeling a bit out of control right now? Let’s see if you can find some relief.
The stress debate is an interesting one. I recall growing up, TV personality Stan Zemanek and his thoughts about stress. He was a controversial talk back radio host and later become the ‘Beast’ on the tv show Beauty and the Beast. If you wanted to learn how to control stress, Stan would be the last person to ask as he simply didn’t believe there was any such thing, as highlighted in the snippet below (Full article from The Age)
“YOU’RE a lazy wuss,” Zemanek said to a 65-year-old man, who says that he lost his job because of stress. “I’ll say it again. There’s no such thing as stress!” Dr Stan has spoken. “The whole stress concept has been fanned by doctors who don’t understand their patients, by lawyers who want to make a quick buck and by stressed people who don’t want to work”.
“You’re a f—ing idiot,” the caller says to Zemanek, failing in his attempts to explain the stress he believes he is feeling.
How To Control Stress… But Does It Even Exist?
Is there such thing as stress? Well, I certainly wasn’t making it up that’s for sure. However, what I have come to learn is not necessarily how to control stress, but much I allow myself to suffer.
It may not be that your circumstances are stressful, it is how you choose to look at them. Or worded differently… your circumstances may be undeniably stressful but you have the ability to decide how much they upset you. Before you tear me a new one, I totally understand some circumstances are far more difficult (sometimes downright hideous) than others. Here I sit in my comfy home under a warm blank as the rain pours down doing what I love, my stress levels non-existent. It is a far cry from when I was a single mum working full-time, with a weekend job at a Chinese restaurant, AND ironing basket loads of washing for a measly $20! And don’t get me started on the relationship dramas!
You’ll get no argument from me that some situations are harder than others. However, and this can be a hard pill to swallow at first, you still do have a choice in how to respond to them. Vicktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor said in his book Mans Search For Meaning about his experience in a concentration camp:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
When you understand that it is your thoughts about a situation that dictates just how much you suffer, it can be liberating. I admit I hated learning this at first! I wore my stress kind of like a badge of honour. Look how harrrrrrrd my life is. Look how much I struggle. I am justified to be stressed. I am justified to complain! But honestly, hand on my heart, nothing improved with this attitude.
So to master how to control stress, allow it sink in to every fibre of your being that you get to choose your attitude no matter what the circumstances. It can be tricky when you have been conditioned to believe that it is natural for a negative or challenging situation to evoke a negative, stressed out response. Growing up, God love them, my dear parents gave that gift to me. They were often stressed out because of whatever was unfolding. I inherited the same conditioned response. As you begin to watch how you respond to various situations, you will see that, if you give yourself space, you do have a choice in how to respond. Buddha said count to ten before you speak when you’re angry. Start with the small stuff because as you master the little things, the bigger things become natural.
Quick Story: Recently I went for a drive into town. I approached a t-intersection where I had to turn right onto the main road. It was about 0845h so there was the school drop off traffic as well as work traffic. Had I been two seconds earlier, there was a clear stretch in both directions. However now there was streams of traffic in both directions. I kept looking left and right and just as one direction cleared another car would appear in the other direction. I looked in the rear vision mirror and there was a build up of cars. I noted the grim look on the man’s face behind me and I could feel my heart begin to race. I could literally feel the stress levels rising. In the past, this was all automatic and unconscious. I would have been muttering FFS, hurry up! It was such a practiced response that even now there was potential to fall back into old habits. I noticed the story in my mind and it went something like this, ‘Im holding everyone up! The man behind me looks cranky. This is frigging ridiculous. I’ll never get the f’k out of here…!’ The flight mode was rearing to kick in! But stress truly is optional. I can respond differently and I did. Instead, I took some deep breaths. The traffic will ease. If old mate is flat-spinning behind me I cannot control his response. I’m not responsible for the traffic. I will go as soon as there is a gap but until then all is well.
It sounds cheesy but learning how to control stress in this way is super cool because you really do feel strong, centred and confident! You then carry this calm focus into every situation and your day unfolds completely differently.
Recap: When it comes to how to control stress, KNOW that you can choose how to respond to any situation. It’s best when you start with smaller, insignificant things like with my story above. With time and practice, your new skilful way of responding to challenging situations becomes dominant and will become natural.
How To Control Stress When The Situations Is REALLY Stressful
It is fantastic to become aware of how you interact with life as you go about your day. However, sometimes life can cook up more than simple day to day annoyances.
I recently went through a difficult time. It wasn’t one massive event, but a culmination of significant pressures. I felt anxious, worried and, yep, stressed. I stayed in this place for quite some time. So, even though I encourage you to consider that it is not necessarily your circumstances causing stress it is the way you look at them, pls don’t take that to mean that you need to become some super human, or worse, go into denial. The difference is when you are in a darker place is awareness and acceptance of what is here. Or if you cannot accept, then accept you cannot accept. When I went through this difficult phase, I wasn’t unconsciously reactive. I wasn’t continually negative or complaining. What I was feeling was real and I allowed that. This in itself, can soothe the stress.
Learning how to control stress by choosing how to respond to anything you are faced with will honestly change your life in lovely ways.
What are your thoughts on how to control stress? Do you have any stress relief techniques or tricks to help you maintain your zen serenity?
Yours in healing,
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