How to Make Stress Your Friend
This article is about stress management. Stress almost killed me because I let it. Like everyone else, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the causes of stress or what to do about it.
When I was a younger man, shortly after I sold one of my small businesses, I lost my way emotionally, spiritually, and financially. The stress I experienced led to a living hell on earth.
At first, I blamed everyone else but me. Over time, and with lots of help, I learned to make stress my friend and develop healthy habits. Today, I live the life of my dreams because of the things I learned about the inner game, especially as it relates to managing stress.
The Causes of Stress
It’s true that a certain amount of stress can be good for us. Imagine being an athlete, doing a big workout, feeling tired and sore in a good way, then allowing your body and mind to recover.
The stress that gets toxic is untreated stress that happens when our mind and body exist in too toxic an environment. For example, most of us agree dealing with a jerk at work can be tough on us, especially when it’s the boss. Life at home can be stressful, especially when we’re living through a lock down.
Let’s face it; stress of all kinds is taking its toll on us unless we know what to do about it. How we respond to and recover from stress makes all the difference. Stress untreated can easily become your worst nightmare.
The Purpose of Feelings
The purpose of feelings is to teach us if we listen and learn. How we feel is a function of our perceptions. If you can accept that everything happens for a reason, and you develop healthy habits such as exercise, hydration, nutrition, and quality sleep, your natural immune system will do what it does best; help you stay healthy.
Imagine the feeling you get when your boss talks nasty to you, or someone cuts you off while driving your car, or any scenario that makes you feel a stressful emotion. If you see your feelings as a powerful teacher instructing you to learn important life lessons, you can see the power of using your feelings positively instead of the alternative; numbing the pain.
Feelings are energy in motion. All feelings come and go if we let them. If we repress, suppress, and ignore what we feel, chances are they will do more harm than good.
Here’s a 1-minute exercise that will help you manage stressful feelings. As you get the hang of the exercise, you may find it will become one of your best friends. Practice this exercise for one minute every time you feel something you don’t like.
- Be the observer of yourself. Stop what you’re doing and become the observer of yourself, even if this sounds goofy. When you observe yourself, you shift your perspective into a higher level of awareness. Being the observer is a form of mindful awareness that does great things for your brain, body, and soul.
- Welcome your feelings and talk to them silently. Recognize and honor all your feelings instead of trying to repress, suppress, or numb the pain with another candy bar or donut. For example, the jerk at work says something that triggers your impatience, fear, anger, or rage. Stop, observe, and welcome the feeling.
- Breathe consciously, slowly, and intentionally. Most people don’t think about breathing because it happens automatically, like when you sleep. Learning to be conscious of your breathing, and breathing through your nose is one of the healthiest habits you can learn to practice. It’s called the breath of life for a reason; you won’t live long without breathing. Breathe in deeply, fill your abdomen with fresh oxygen, and exhale slowing through your nose. Do this for one minute.
- Practice being more than doing. Be with your feelings for at least one minute. Most humans are so busy doing, we’ve forgotten how to be still. Stillness is a powerful presence and a gift. That’s why even if you’re not religious, you can embrace Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
- Let your feelings come and go. Trust your feelings to be your friend. Let them come and go. Feelings are energy in motion. Don’t get attached to any feeling or thought because negative attachments are a drag.
- Practice radical gratitude. Thank all of your feelings. Practice talking to yourself in positive ways. Have you ever noticed that you say and do things to yourself you wouldn’t let others do to you? Practicing gratitude for everything and seek the lesson to be learned.
- Get back to the business of life. After the 1-minute break, get back to what you were doing. Smile knowing you’ve taken time to observe, welcome, breathe through, be with, and let your feelings flow like water.
- Practice often. Commit to practicing this exercise often and it will become a healthy habit. Over time, chances are you’ll feel a difference.
- Share your experience with your family and friends. As you learn to be the master of your feelings and emotions, you’ll change from within. Over time, people around you will notice. If people ask you what’s changed, share the healthy habit with them. Share the love of mindful awareness.
In closing, Mahatma Gandhi never said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He said, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”
Never stop practice being a better you. When you see the world through the lens of your highest and best self, your heart will become more tender, you will accept what is, learn to surrender control, and let go of any attachment that allows even the biggest jerk at work to stress you out.
Thanks for reading my article. I’m grateful and happy to share what I’m learning about the inner game of being a better human.
Did this article help you? Feel free to share a comment and connect with me at www.CliffordJones.com. You can also follow me on LinkedIn here.