“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” — William James
Everyone of us has stress in our lives, in one form or the other.
It’s kind of weird that even though there’s no immediate threat to our lives our minds reacts as if there were.
The first step to overcome this is really easy.
It’s about understanding that all it’s just our fear system being activated. This is basically our fight, flight, or freeze mechanism at its finest.
It served a purpose when that rustling in the bushes could be either a bear or a squirrel.
Whether they were right or wrong, let’s just say that our ancestors probably aren’t the ones who thought it was a squirrel.
It’s just how we’re wired to ensure our survival.
Nowadays it’s being activated by things that, while unpleasant, aren’t life threatening. It’s the little things like the fear of embarrasing ourselves in front of people, the pressure of solving a difficult problem, when we have to interact with people we really don’t like and so on.
That’s the first step, the next step is to understand what we can do about it.
One way is to not fight the emotions, but work on becoming aware of them and letting them flow through you.
Recently I had an encounter with a psychiatrist and we were talking about different medicines. He was very adamant about something that really got me going. Instead of lashing out I calmly said: “Give me a second to think, because what you just said really upset me, and I want to choose my words carefully.”
He looked surprised but gave me some time to collect my thoughts.
Now, I’m far from perfect and had this discussion occurred less than 10 years ago, or if I was in an otherwise bad mood, I would have found it hard not to call him a dumbass blowhard and yelled all the ways in which he was mistaken.
Instead we had a civil discussion about where I thought he was mistaken and could ask him for the data. Which turned out to be very cherry picked.
It takes time to practice this skill. But it is a skill and it can be learned.
We need to become aware of ourselves, our emotions, and our physical reactions.
Allow yourself time to let the emotions flow through you, turn your focus to your breathing, feel what parts of your body is tensing up and relax them.
Also, make sure to express that you need some time to think about your reply. That way the other person isn’t just left hanging.
Although, that silence can also serve to get them off balance. If that kind of “mind game” is something that you’re into.
It’s basically a bunch of mindfulness, but I’ve found that it works for me.
Take these principles and figure out what works for you.
Do you already have a way of handling it? When and how did you discover it?
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Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!