Now, in America, it seems to me, many people go around being stressed all the time. I'm not one to try to dictate what other people should do with their lives, but it seems to me that most people who are habitually stressed do not enjoy that particular aspect of their lives. The people who push themselves a little and then get to relax enjoy a balanced life. But sometimes, after having to push ourselves hard and long enough, we forget. We forget how to relax, and we forget how to let go of the stress we carry with us. Even stressed people know how to have fun, but do they know how to relax?
Stress gets a bad rep, because people are always complaining about stress, but I think that stress is more like salt. A little bit is good and even needful; it can be beneficial and helps us to carry on our lives with vigor and determination. Then again, if you pour a cup of salt into the soup, suddenly the whole thing is ruined. Similarly, when stress takes over your life, it no longer fulfills it's proper function, and instead can become a devastating force that you can't shut off. Stress is designed to help us focus, but too much will destroy any potential for focus.
To illustrate the point, I will refer to bizarre medical phenomenon. Short term stress, which can be good for you in many situations, goes from your hypothalamus to your sympathetic nervous system, to your adrenal medulla, which releases catecholamines into your system, resulting in increases respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, dilated pupils, and the like.
Long term stress takes a completely different route: this endocrine pathway involved the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal cortex. It all results in the release of ACTH, which makes the adrenal cortex release corticosteroids into your system. Notice: corticosteroids is different from catecholamines. Too much of the corticosteroids on a habitual basis just tears down your body, and generally goes around wreaking all sorts of havoc, which I will not get into now.
Anyway, coming back from that drawn-out example, I maintain that it's very important to be able to turn stress to the “off” position once in a while. Having threads of thought that you can never turn off in your head is a good sign of over-stress. You see, we all have threats of thought open in our mind most of the time. However, they are easy to close, unless they are reinforced by stress or worry. A calm child "sleeps like a baby," because they have no cares and worries that they hold on to. They find security usually in the adult caretakers, and are fine with everything just fading gently from their mind as they fall asleep. If you thought about buying mustard later, and you don't write it down, it is easy to forget because probably it doesn't have any real worry or stress attached to it. If you are having a hard time closing a "threads" of thought in your mind, I would say it most always is a sign of stress.
So, what do you do with stress? I don't know what you do. I only know what *I* do with stress, and I am more than happy to tell you all about it. Therefore, I have below charted what I do with stress. It is relatively exhaustive, and so I outline the process briefly, before diving into the full description. Now, if you don't have time to read the whole blog, I would recommend just skipping to the description of the 8 types of stress, because that's totally the most fascinating part of this written piece.
What to Do:
- Figure out the stress
- If legit, resolve or make plan about it
- If still feeling worry, it's a feeling
- If it's a feeling:
- A - Identify feeling
- B - Transform feelings
- C - Check for worry/stress, repeat if necessary
- Implement pop-up blockers
- Strengthen "Relaxing" muscles of your mind
[Note: Those last two should be labeled "4" and "5" but this program is refusing to accommodate that option.]
That's the short version. What follows is the long version. You'll like it. I promise. Even if you disagree, you will enjoy how interesting it is, and it may even cause you to have deep and profound thoughts of your own.
In case of stress, follow this awesome and effective procedure:
Figure out what type of stress it is. What type it is will determine how you will be able to deal with it. Different causes means different possible resolutions. Oftentimes, after looking through all the types of stresses, you will be able to identify which ones you identified with currently. This will often help you narrow down the negative feelings that are causing the stress, whether it is fear, confusion, dislike, or pain.
Types of stress: External pressure and Internal stress
External Pressures: Happens mainly TO you
A - Physical pressure (Like carrying a backpack puts physical pressure on you)
B - Pain/Discomfort Avoidance pressure
- Current (Your hand is bleeding - this puts pressure on you to do something to make it better)
- Future (A pencil is flying through the air in your direction - this puts pressure on you to move to avoid pain)
C - Interpersonal Pressure (Another person feels pressure and they transfer this pressure to you, usually using words, or facial expressions)
Internal Pressure (Stress) Happens mainly IN you (and many times is our response to external pressure)
- A - Stress is often simply the pressure that we put on ourselves. This can be good, it's what gets us out of bed in the morning, etc. However, beware to avoid pushing yourself to do more than you can, or it became anti-productive bullying.
B - Being in a situation you actively hate or dislike causes tension
C - Having a double mind (I want to go, I don't want to go) causes internal tension
D - Hate/Bitterness/Unresolved pain is tension you carry around with you like a backpack forever. Thus the expression that "hate is like taking poison, and expecting your enemy to drop down dead."
E - The over-achiever mindset will produce constant pressure. This is mainly based off of shame, which is also dissatisfaction with self. Such a person, without realizing it, will often put constant pressure on themselves to do more, or better. Now, this actually cannot be resolved with just "transforming feelings," but must go deeper than that. It goes back to being able to receive love from other people, knowing how to give love, and actually loving yourself.
F - Fear is based of pain avoidance pressure, and is among the more strong forms of stress and can cause crippling tension
G - Hope is a "pulling" pressure, not a "pushing" pressure. Hope will make you fly. A very fun pressure/tension that causes action. Usually not even counted as stress. However, when used without the context of immediate enjoyment, it can cause unhappiness (but not stress, so much)
H - The desire to internally be immune to pain; becoming "bulletproof" puts on you the constant tension of being "strong and tough" even in situations which do not require that extra energy.
Stress is usually based off of reality. If you are stressed about homework, it usually is because if you don't do homework, something bad will actually happen to you. So, having recognized the stress, and before trying to make the stress go away, you must take advantage of what stress is designed to do: motivate you! Plan and take action about the situation.
If you make a plan and are still worried, think and perhaps update the plan. Perhaps you are trying to do more than you realistically can do, while maintaining your status as a happy, healthy person. In that case, perhaps your plan should include how to achieve your survival goals without overworking yourself. If your plan is great, and well thought-through, and you still feel stress than you are putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on yourself, and must go on to be able to resolve it. If you are mentally satisfied with your plan, but are still feeling stressed or worried, then you no longer need to deal with your thought processes, but need to deal with the emotions and feelings involved. How do you do that? I'll tell you!
What To Do With Those Feelings:
A: Identify the feeling. As I mentioned before, there are several different feelings that cause stress. Perhaps you have one that I haven't even listed. Either way, try to figure out what it is. It isn't enough to think of it as a "bad" feelings. One must be able to know the exact shade and feeling that particular "bad" to be able to deal with it. I personally have lists of feeling words that I can go to for reference. Perhaps I should list those in a blog, I don't know.
B: Calm and let go of those feelings. I didn't say "get rid of" them for a reason. Trying to make them go away is actually counterproductive. You must become closer to them in order to calm them, and when they are calmed, the feeling will just naturally fade away. Here is a brief description of a technique you can use to do this:
- Recognize each feeling as it rises
- Become one with the feeling, and accept that it is part of you (not saying "go away" but more like "Aww, I feel the same way")
- Calm the feeling (not avoid, but comfort. As you would comfort a child - not intellectually, but emotionally)
- Release the feeling (After calming, fear won't overwhelm, smile & let it go)
- Look deeper (and correct inaccurate worldviews)
[Note: even when fear is irrational, always be kind and gentle. Never call self "dumb" for feeling scared.]
C: Check for worry/stress, repeat if necessary. You may have resolved one negative feeling, but still have another, etc.
Even once you have a great plan for handling the situation beautifully, and have calmed your negative feelings, interrupting thoughts will occasionally just pop into your mind. This is not pleasant, and will happen less and less as focusing and letting go of the other thoughts and feelings. However, if you are just beginning to use these techniques, it will happen quite a bit, to the point that you may feel discouraged about the process as a whole. However, this is a natural thing that happens. We are creatures of habit, and just as you must go to chiropractor many times to realign your neck, because your neck muscles want to return to the position they had been in, in the same way, your mind will want to return to it's normal operating procedure. This is actually a physical reality, just like your neck. So having a good plan, and after calming your feelings, you must have some sort of "Pop-Up Blockers" in your mind to deal with the inevitable pop-ups that will come.
Mainly, what you have to do is see those feelings as employees, or servants. They will bring you a document. Perhaps your caring and diligent employee Fear will bring you a document outlining the risks of a particular endeavor, and end the document will the request that you do not take that action. In a kind and grateful way, for he is after all just trying to look out for your well-being, you must firmly tell Fear that you have thought about all that information and have still decided to take that action, regardless of those risks. Then, in a firm and paternal way, you must tell Fear to leave your office so that you can get back to work. You see, Fear makes a wonderful employee, but a dreadful boss. You may also think up your own favorite ways to mentally block these pop-ups, but the one I just described is the one I use. I recognize the feeling behind the thought, and gently but firmly address it as its superior and dismiss it.
The "relaxing" muscle in your mind - that is to say, the part of your mind that you use to relax and calm yourself - is essential, and yet very underused by many people, and therefore often not that strong. The more you are able to relax your mind, the better you become at it, and the easier it seems.
Additionally, if you think of your mind as a rubberband, you will quickly perceive that if you always keep it tensed, it will lose its elasticity. You must relax it in order to maintain its functionality. Think of it even like hammering a nail. If you bring the hammer down once and put pressure on the nail, it will only go so far. To make it go further, you must take the pressure off the nail, and then again put pressure on. The retreat is as important as the rush of pressure. Through all of these analogies, I hope to show you that in addition to the above mentioned techniques, you must also relax at other times, as a habit. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough.
Americans, as a whole, have forgotten how to relax. Even in their vacations, they stress themselves. Sometimes it is good stress, like skydiving or whathaveyou. But it is not true relaxation. I have listed a bunch of relaxing things to do below, and if you think of additional things, you can add them to this list. However, be careful that things you add to the list are truly relaxing, and not just fun or exciting. For excitement and often fun is the opposite of relaxation. To excite is to stir up, but to relax is to calm down.
Now of all the things on this, there is one that I must most strongly recommend above all. If you were only to do one, I would have to insist that this be the one. And if you were not to do one, I would be quite confident that you are doing yourself a disfavor and undercutting the rest of this whole process. It's so important, in fact, that it's actually one of the ten commandments. The is this: Take a whole day off every couple weeks, no pressure, not even fun pressure. A whole day off. 24 hours. No work. Not even a little. No obligatory activities. No being around people who stress you. It's a challenge actually. It is unexpectedly hard to relax your mind for a day, but I assure that it is essential and is very key!
Random Relaxing Things To Do:
-Watch a snowglobe
-Listen to melodious music
-Watch the waves at the beach
-Watch something else repetitive
-Listen to rain or waterfalls
-Play with a pet
-Sing in the shower
-Draw or paint random stuff
-Draw Smileys :)
-Take a whole day off, no pressure, not even fun pressure
-Meditate on something good (Like Scripture)
-Drink Hot Chocolate
-Chill in a hot tub
-Classical music in the background