As our careers and businesses develop, we begin to feel more and more of the burden of responsibility, and with it, more stress levels. Many people find that because of the excess of stress, they are unable to work, socialize, rest, or plan their day properly. If the situation is left as it is, you can “drown” in negative emotions. Fortunately, there are effective methods of how you can overcome stress and use it to your benefit – to train, educate your character and develop yourself.
Here’s what I’m doing today to deal with stress:
1. Recognize the signs of stress
When stress builds up, two things happen: stress hormones flood my body, and I start twitching, fidgeting, quickly jumping from one task to another. This is a clear signal that something has gone wrong. So the first step of my method is to recognize that I am feeling overwhelmed and that I need to pause.
2. I pause and focus my attention on what’s happening to me
I stop moving and take note of what is happening to me. I just sit motionless and look inside myself. I feel stress in my body. It’s like waves of electricity running from my head and chest to other parts of my body. I just have to mark the feeling, notice the rush and urgency I feel, the way the world seems to be crashing down on me.
3. Noticing the need for control
The feeling of overload, of being overwhelmed, is so strong because I don’t feel like I’m in control of the situation. When I can do one thing at any given time, when I have a reasonable number of things on my to-do list, I feel like I am in control.
This, of course, is an illusion. I am never really in control of what happens to me. I make lists, develop schedules, set goals, track progress, hold myself accountable… but really I’m just wandering in the dark like the rest of us. I don’t know where I’m going, and I don’t have a clear plan defining how to get somewhere. I’m just trying to find my way in an uncertain, uncontrollable world, while trying to fall less frequently. So now I note this need to control my life – and I don’t do anything about it. Just observing it, acknowledging it.
4. Demonstrating love for myself
Seeing this need for control, feeling the stress in my body, I can send myself some love. It’s like putting a warm hand on my heart. And then put it on my other parts that are stressed, that want control. It relaxes me a little bit, reduces the anxiety a little bit. It’s how a mother soothes an upset child.
5. Narrowing my field of vision
It is my concession to the desire to control everything. I can’t do everything at once. And I can’t do a thousand things in a day that I need to do. I can only do a few. So I make a list, and then I choose a few that I can really get done today. That list turns out to be too long, so I have to overdo something and admit that my strength is limited. I shorten the list for the day. It is now doable. And I’ll do the rest when I’m done with this little list.
6. Focusing on some one thing
All I can do is one thing at a time. I want to do a hundred things at once. But I can only do one thing. So I choose that one thing, put everything else aside, and focus on only one thing. Yes, I still feel stressed, and I’m already able to recognize that stress and need for control and therefore continue to show love to myself – as long as I get that very thing done. It’s the best I can do. So I try my best.
7. Relaxing and feeling the moments in a new way
While doing this very thing, I feel tension. My chest is tight, my neck is tense, my arms and legs are tense. So I tell myself to relax and feel this moment.
I allow myself to do this, to accept everything that is happening, to relax and be in this moment instead of fighting it, to relax and see that there is joy in this moment too, that there is something beautiful, even in the midst of all the chaos and stress. There is so much in this moment that I don’t need to focus on everything else anymore… I’ll get to that later, but for now it’s enough just to dissolve in the warm embrace of these moments.
I’m practicing it right now as I write these words, and I hope to keep practicing it until the day is over. I hope you find some joy and beauty in this method, too, and can appreciate it.