Updated: Aug 3
In my post ‘Investigating Stress’ I put forward that the ‘stressful’ state we find ourselves in, triggers a chain reaction. Once we see an unpleasant situation and label it as ‘stressful’ there is a psycho- physical response of fear, tension and anxiety. We register this as bad, wrong and unpleasant, so duly try to change or eliminate these feelings we attribute to ‘stress’.
In this post I will discuss why habitual reactions to stress have little long-term impact and ask the question we never think to ask.
Habits and change
None of us enjoy having the emotions and tension we associate with ‘stress’ so we do all we can to get rid of these feelings. This is the usual reaction for most people. If I feel ‘stressed’ I take medicine, try various methods, go for weekly massages or such like to become ‘de-stressed’. My goal is to do whatever necessary to escape this state. There are useful ways that help, to a certain extent. However, for most people, after a certain amount of time those feelings return. They may be diminished or more intense, but they have not disappeared. Then you start asking yourself if you are destined to feel stress, ‘I am just that kind of a person’, or maybe think ‘there is something wrong with me’, or even consider making big changes in your life.
The question you never think to ask
If we consider again how we deal with stress we may find a clue. We find ourselves feeling anxious and tense and perceive this state as undesirable and necessary to change. It is this state that we see as ‘the problem‘ but is it? There is one outstanding question we haven’t asked; what am I stressed, tense and anxious about? Isn’t this state the result of something rather than the problem itself? Stress doesn’t just appear out of nowhere or simply disappear as I have witnessed after trying my selection of classes and methods. I did not aim to have these tense, anxious feelings but they happened anyway. Something must have triggered them but what? We are so intent on changing this undesirable state without knowing what exactly we have to change.
Friends not enemies
This is when you need to decipher very carefully what happened before these stressful symptoms appeared. For that is what they are, symptoms or signals that enable you to notice
when something is not working for you. They are friends not enemies! They are uncomfortable to experience yet necessary if you wish to make constructive changes in your life. It is, therefore, important to listen to the signals rather than try to change them. (see post on ‘refusing to see the warning signs’)
This is the first stage to consider and see for yourself if it makes sense. The next time you have the ‘stress’ symptoms, ask yourself what happened just before these symptoms appeared. What were you doing, thinking, feeling… or what was happening around you, and see if you can find a connection. This is collecting information that can help you decipher the cause behind the stress symptoms. It is the first but most important step to take on the road to discovering the real reasons for the stressful feelings.
In the following post I will talk about our value judgements, our individual points of view and how important they are in uncovering the cause of stress.
Stay tuned for the next article on this