Stress is one of those funny things isn’t it? We all have it from time to time, we all know what it is, but we all experience it differently, in that we all find different things stressful.
This week I was privileged to be invited to speak at a large Ladies Networking event in York about stress management, and before I did so, I did a little research as to what they all found stressful. I wasn’t surprised that there was such a wide range of things, from money worries, to worrying what others thought of them, from being concerned about whether they were doing the right thing to feeling guilty about what they were doing. It seemed that all sorts of things create this feeling of stress in us and none of us experience it in the same way, but during my talk they all agreed that this not only had a detrimental impact on how their businesses grew but also on how much they were enjoying their lives.
I asked them, imagine what your life and business would be like if it wasn’t there? It’s so impactful isn’t it?
I used to be a major stress bunny, my husband would tease me that I would get stressed about opening a packet of crisps, I really could have got a degree in it! I look back on that time now, and wonder how much time and energy I wasted on unhelpful stressful thinking, and what an impact it had on my health, my family, my career and my life.
Of course it doesn’t have to be that way at all. In fact, I struggle to remember the last time I got really stressed about something. So how to you get from major stress bunny to chilled out happy person, surely that is something short of miraculous?
It’s actually a lot easier than you think, first of all, it’s about really understanding what stress is and what it isn’t. Physiologically, we can’t ignore the fact that our body responds in stressful ways, it’s designed to. When we were cavemen and women, we would have relied on our stress response to either run like hell from a sabre tooth tiger or kill it, so it was pretty important. However, I’m pleased to say, we don’t come across many sabre tooth tigers in Yorkshire.
So why do we get stressed? The simple answer is we create our own modern day sabre tooth tigers simply with the power of thought. Years ago, my daughter had a bear that she took everywhere, if he was there she was happy. When she lost the bear, her world fell apart. it was as if all her wellbeing and feelings of safety were stuffed in it, which of course they weren’t because there was only stuffing in it! As we get older we create ‘adult bears’ – have you ever caught yourself saying ‘I’ll be happy when I get that new job, or new house….’ only to find that actually your happiness doesn’t arrive when you get whatever it is. Conversely we also create ‘adult monsters’, like ‘I’m overdrawn again it makes me so stressed’ ‘they’re changing things at work, I’m so worried’, ‘why is the traffic so bad, it stresses me out’. We believe that our stress is coming from the things that are outside of us, that those things are producing the stress. But when we think about it, can that really be the case? Often the things we stress about aren’t intrinsically stressful, in that not everyone finds them stressful, or they are about something that hasn’t happened yet or something that we can’t do anything about. We are simply creating a thought monster and because of the way our subconscious works, it triggers our stress response as if it were real.
When we spot that we are the creator of the monster, more often than not, the monster evaporates like the illusion that it is and we simply go back to being completely ok. It really is that straightforward.
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