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How to kick stress in the balls.

Stress, the big bad bully that everyone knows so well.

We all complain about it and suffer from it everyday. Whether it is stress at work, stress in traffic or stress at home, we’ve all experienced it.

Heck, even my 7 year old cousin told her mom she is so stressed out with school. Seven!!! What does a seven year old know about stress and what does she even stress about? When I was seven, I probably hadn’t even heard about the word stress. Sure as hell didn’t know how to spell it..

So what is stress?

Let’s go stone age over here.

Back, when everyone lived much simpler lives of hunting and gathering, stress was your “fight or flight” reaction. You were getting chased by a lion or a tiger and you had to run like your life depended on it because guess what, it actually did!!! So our bodies adapted to this and reacted in a way that made sure we survived.

You get a nice kick of hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol, that give you that extra boost in a dangerous situation. Your heart rate goes up and your breathing becomes faster, your muscles tighten up and and your reproductive systems, immunity and digestive system stops working. Because who needs to be wasting time on digesting food when you are running for your life?

So stress isn’t that bad. It’s something that was designed to help us in life or death situations. It’s probably one of the reasons why you and your predecessors didn’t get a Darwin Award.

Stop hating stress, it saved your ass a few times.

Back to the future.

Don’t worry, I know you’re not getting chased by lions anymore (well I sure hope you aren’t!). So why do you care about this?

We all think we are still being chased by lions every day……

I was a prime example. I worked in a job with high pressure and stupid deadlines. Everything had to be done yesterday and if you messed up it was the entire company’s ass on the line (no pressure).

Can you say stressed the hell out!?

Those lions were chasing me hard, every single day, and I was feeling it. You create all this pressure in your head. You think about it every day, you dream about it (IF you get some sleep) and you worry about it all the time. It was also affecting the people I was working with. People were getting stomach ulcers (remember digestive system shutting down) and high blood pressure (remember that heart rate going up). We were all running for our lives all day long.

Stop running

Eventually, after one of my very good friends had a nervous breakdown. I started wondering how all this worked and I started reading articles about stress. I developed a whole new way of looking at stress and dealing with it. I made stress my friend.

Is it going to kill you?

This very simple question changed the way I saw so many situations. We are all trapped in our heads. We live in the future. Worrying about things that are going to happen. We dream up all the things that could go wrong, what everyone will think and what will happen to us. We make something massive, something that chases us all day long, out of an event that hasn’t even happened yet, and probably won’t.

I think Mark Twain said it best:

Do you stress about things that never happen.

So I stopped trying to predict the future. I stopped playing out all the scenarios of what could go wrong and worrying about them. I’m not saying you should stop planning for the future completely, that would just be stupid. What I’m getting at here is stop worrying about it and making it something massive. Look at it objectively say: “What can happen?” and then plan for it, but after you have done that, stop. Don’t keep on making it something bigger.

The best way I found to do this is that one simple question: “Is it going to kill me?”  I find that that diffuses almost any situation very quickly. These days we don’t face too many situations that can actually kill us. We might suffer some humiliation or financial loss, but it’s not really as bad as you think it is.

Now. “Is it going to kill me?” might be a little way out for some people, but I found it really worked for me because it was so farfetched. After I ask myself this question and I diffuse the situation, I move on to the next questions that really make a difference.

Do I have control over it? / Can I do something about it?

These questions serves two purposes. They let you identify the things that you have no control over, where you are wasting your time stressing about it and it also gets you to do something about the things that you do have control over.

I’m sitting in traffic and this &*% just pushed in front of me. Aaaaagghhhh!!!

Stress in trafic

Is it going to kill me?

No

Do I have control over it?

Well if this is the only road to where I need to go, no I don’t. So sit back, put on some music and chill the …… out man.

If it isn’t the only road. Pick another road and try it. Weigh your options, make a choice and live with it.

 

I’m going to miss my deadline!!!!

Are deadlines stressing you out?

Is it going to kill me?

No!!

Do I have control over it?

Well maybe I can put in some extra hours and meet my deadline.

If that ship has sailed, what can I do? Make a list of why we are missing the deadline and send it to the people that need to know about it. Ok done. No more worrying about it. Just move on and get the work done.

Try it. What do you have to lose?

This might seem too stupid and simple and you might be thinking “This guy is crazy, my stress is waaaay more than that. I can’t stop it with just these simple questions. You gotta be kidding me!!”.

Try it. What do you have to lose?

The difficult part is that you have to have the presence of mind to ask yourself these questions. You have to create a trigger in your mind that says “Oh wait, I’m feeling stressed. Ok let’s do something about this.”

Is it going to kill me?

Do I have control over it?

Can I do something about it?

Try these this week and see how they work for you.

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If you really want to go down the rabbit hole read our previous article about Change. Start thinking about the fact that you might be addicted to stress, due to your body being used to getting the specific neuropeptides that are released when you are stressed.

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