To be able to manage any issue, one has to understand it (the issue). I am not going to give you a medical interpretation of ‘stress’ because I am not a qualified doctor. However, simply put, stress can be described as the condition any living being experiences when it needs to put in extra ordinary effort to do something. In humans there are two types of stresses. The first is physical stress. You experience it every day, when you walk, run, jog, climb stairs or undertake any activity. The second sort of stress is the one that thoughts induce. When I was asked the question on managing stress I am guessing it’s the second variety that was being referred to; hence the focus of this note.
Mental stress is actually a normal phenomenon. It’s how a living creature reacts to external stimulus. When the stimulus plays on our fears, our mind prepares the body to fight or take flight. E.g. if one is scared of dogs, the person will want to run away or hide should a dog approach. This is the mind reacting to the stress caused by our fear. In daily lives there are hundreds of such stimuli that come hurtling at us from all sides. Most of them we ‘handle’ or deflect. But there are ones that linger on. It is these thoughts, that promote the release of fight or flight hormones. And it is these hormones that cause the damage that manifests itself as ‘stress induced health issues’. To know more about the damages these hormones cause, please consult a doctor; I am not qualified to tell you more about it.
But all stress comes down to one basic issue – what is going through your mind? The only root cause for any sort of mental stress, is the inability to control the thought that continues to remain in your mind. This lingering thought is the one that causes ‘stress’.
There are many ways of handling this. Here are my top 3.
Do something else
The best way to get any thought out of your mind, is to get another one in. If you merely sit brooding, the damaging thought is not going to leave you. It will continue to grow inside your mind. If you have a hobby that you didn’t pursue, then take it up again. Household activities become stressful because you are doing the same thing over and over again. Change the routine and you will see the difference. Do something crazy, like a child would do; if you cook, pretend you are the world’s greatest singer and sing while you cook. If you are cleaning your house then put on some music and dance while you work. The point is, do something in addition to whatever you do as routine work. For me, cooking, writing, reading are some activities that I rarely find time for. When I do, they take my mind away from all stressful issues.
‘Destroy’ the issue
The mind relies heavily on our senses to function. The 5 senses actually control a large chunk of your mind’s behaviour. There is a technique I learnt very early that helped me in the early years. If there is a problem that is consistently bothering you then try this. Just before you sleep, write down the problem on a piece of paper. Read it at least 5 times. Then tear that piece of paper and throw it into the dustbin. When lying down in bed, think of pleasant thoughts such as a favourite holiday, or a childhood memory that made you happy, or a gesture that makes you feel good about yourself. Keep replaying that thought before you sleep. I promise you, by morning, you will feel better.
Stress the body
This is actually the best way to beat any negative thought. When you work your body, two things happen. The mind has to focus on the stress the body is going through because it doesn’t want the body to hurt itself. E.g. when you climb stairs, the mind focuses on the steps you take. As the demand for oxygen in your body grows, the mind signals the lungs to work faster. The second thing that happens is that when the body is going through this trauma, the mind is releasing endorphins to calm the stressed muscles. These ‘chemicals’ are also the same ones your body releases when you are happy. The more you stress the body, the more the mind has to work to get the body back to its resting state. And in that lies the answer to managing any kind of stress. Yoga, Pilates, Floor exercises, skipping, martial arts etc are all activities that require the mind to focus on the body’s protection. The more you do this, the less the space you will have to allow negative thoughts to enter.
Please remember that what I have said in this email, is a overly simplified. You will not change things overnight, but if you stick with it, I promise you there is no mountain that you can’t climb. You will achieve all that you aspire to only if you prioritize it (the achievement) over all the negative thoughts that race through your mind.
Stress isn’t a scourge of an advanced society. It is a scourge that exists in our mind because we have given it space to live in. You are a living entity with the power to control your mind. You have to believe that you can and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Remember, the only difference between a successful individual and one that isn’t is the single fact that the successful one just didn’t give up, no matter what the adversity.
Is this article helpful? Please write to me and let me know. I would love to hear from you.
Stay Indoors, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy