What If?

On Managing My Stress

I’m not going to lead this one with a clickbait title.

I’ve been a user of the Headspace app for about 9 months now. Before this, I’ve never really tried any sort of meditation or mindfulness. For the longest time, it was vilified as almost a pagan worship ritual (or at least that’s how it came across to me). Once I dispelled that belief, I just didn’t know how. It seemed such a foreign concept.

Andy Puddicombe’s confident, gentle, lightly-British-accented voice and guided sessions completely changed my mind on what meditation was. No longer did I have to try and search for meaning in the mantras chanted by monks, I could understand meditation on my own terms.

Calm. Still. Peace. Space. Open.

Awareness.

Today’s rambling isn’t about my meditation journey; that may come later. This morning, I started a specific “pack” on stress.

I know I have a difficult time managing stress. Before this morning, stress was this nebulous concept that was just part of life, ever-present, and tough as shit to notice or reduce. I had all but succumbed to the self-induced belief that if I wanted to work in the fields I enjoy or do several of the things I love, stress was just something I needed to tolerate. I’ve only recently become aware of the toll stress has taken on my mind and body.

I find it funny that this long-held belief of mine was shattered by a realization and then dozing off for the last 2-3 minutes of the session.

Andy said something that really struck home with me. To paraphrase his words, stress is simply discomfort caused by wanting something to be different than what it is.

Woah.

In that moment, my perception of stress and the management thereof changed instantly. What if I re-framed my thinking of my own stress management through this philosophy?

If stress is indeed caused by that desire, doesn’t that mean its not so dissimilar from cognitive dissonance, or the discomfort caused by holding two conflicting beliefs?

If that’s true, what are the beliefs? I found this answer:

  1. I believe that I see what is. I do not like the current situation I am in.
  2. I believe that the situation can be better, and external factors beyond my control are shaping the situation or limiting my efficacy.

Those beliefs, when distilled through my own philosophy of circumstance and change, are self-polarizing. An underlying assumption is that I want or need this situation to be a certain way. A remedy, from my reading, to cognitive dissonance is to change one of the conflicting beliefs.

Well, that’s pretty easy once I can see clearly what they are! Focusing on the first belief that I see the situation as it is and I can envision it as I desire, then I take the power back to affect its outcome.

The solution then becomes simple. First, make sure that changing this—whatever it is—is worth my time and energy. Identify the origin and destination, work backward from the destination to create a plan, then follow the plan. Thing will happen that are beyond my control. Identify these points along the path, and have contingencies for these high-risk points.

With a plan, the stress just dissolves.

By no means do I think that I’ve solved all of my stress management issues in one Headspace session. As I re-framed my own thinking on stress, I became aware of several habits that prevent this from happening naturally. But if I can drive my own southern drawl out of my speech, I can continue to identify, break, and re-learn habits that will ultimately reduce the stress I endure.

… and that sounds like a topic for another morning ramble.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: