I wanted to share with you a recent question I answered for GQ Magazine on how to get out of stressful situations, effortlessly.
Stress levels are on the increase. How many times have you asked someone how they are and the response has been, "Urgh, stressed"? Probably most. It’s not surprising considering we live in the fast pace of modern life. We have information overload all at the touch of a button on our iPhones and can check social media, voicemails and emails in an instant. We can be switched on and contactable 24/7 and it’s not surprising people are feeling more and more stressed, unable to switch off and unable to find their balance.
Stress is ultimately when we go into what we call “fight-or-flight” where the body and mind releases lots of stress hormones, including cortisol, to gear us up to cope with an emergency. People who are under chronic stress have cortisol pouring into the bloodstream all the time. No wonder they don’t feel so good…
Many people talk about stress manifesting itself in physical illnesses such as getting regular colds and flu, headaches and sometimes even muscular aches and pains. Sleep patterns can also be disrupted by stress and insomnia is an obvious red flag.
But there is hope. You see a lot of stress is actually "mental" but impacts on the physical. Not the other way around. It’s about the mind first. I teach my clients and students that stress can be banished from your life by learning how to think right. Stress is, in fact, an emotion that can be changed via your thinking.
Getting a handle on stress is relatively simple. Here’s my top five how-to tips…
Sometimes it's good to step back and ask yourself, “Is that going to make any difference in ten years’ time?” Ninety per cent of the time the answer is almost certainly no. Get perspective – put the issue you face into context, accepting that most of the things we worry about are not life-or-death issues. Try to mentally shrink what’s worrying you and it won’t seem like such a big deal after all.
So many of us have sky-high expectations on ourselves, way higher than we would set for anyone else. Whatever it is you are stressed about, ask yourself how you would talk to a friend in a similar situation. Would you be yelling at them, telling them they won't get something sorted out, or that they are an idiot to have found themselves in this situation? Or would you treat your friend with kindness, consideration and love? Exactly. Treat yourself nicely and be kind with your thoughts and the stress will slip away.
Noticing that you are "stressed" can actually be good for you, (yes, really) because it’s a signal that you can either carry on doing what you are doing and getting the same results, or that something is in need of change. I think the best way to look at stress being good for you is that it is simply a sign that you need to change your perception.
First of all, our thoughts rule how we feel. It’s important to understand how we think creates our feelings, so if we are feeling something we don’t want to feel – such as stress – we have to start thinking about things differently. We teach all our students at The Life Class how to think correctly because the truth is, none of us were taught how to "think" or deal with our "emotions" at school. And yet this is such an important part of understanding that your thoughts create how you feel. If you are stressed, the first thing to do is start writing down your thoughts – get it out of your head and on paper.
In other words, are you choosing thoughts that feel good or feel stressful? Let’s say you are stressed about a presentation you need to do for work. If you are thinking, "I can’t do this," you won’t be feeling great. Instead, you need to start thinking about it differently to create a different feeling. Start challenging yourself to think the opposite – in other words, look for evidence to prove to yourself why you absolutely can do it.