The Extraordinary Stress of life and simple ways to master it

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Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

While we’re all prone to experiencing different levels of stress and fear, our self-doubts and negative emotions can be an easy way to shut down and let ourselves spiral into overwhelm.

They’re also a lot easier to prevent if we know how to use the strategies and resources that are designed to keep us calm and healthy, and to reduce the amount of stress we can feel.

Here are five tips and tools I have put together that can help, whether you’re at the beginning of the learning curve of using them, or just plain old be a less stressed, more relaxed version of yourself.

Accept that we all have needs

Accepting that we all have needs — and that we can’t necessarily meet them all at the same time — can help us see things through a more realistic and less narcissistic lens. It can help us see stress as a temporary and necessary element of life, and not a wicked serpent that will drag us down.

At the same time, we can take self-acceptance to a whole new level. Many people prefer to view their own lives from a very high-upside-down viewpoint; by boosting their own growth, they automatically view their own lives and challenges in a positive light. But while the lowest-hanging fruit in that approach is hugely helpful, more often than not we are drawn to negative perspectives and become sucked into negative habits.

By tapping into your core beliefs and shifting them upwards, you can look at life in a more balanced way. You will be able to be more optimistic about your own strengths, your own abilities, your own growth, and even yourself.

The benefits of vulnerability

To understand the real reasons behind mental health problems, it helps to understand the difference between two different kinds of problems.

Some mental health problems are a symptom of illness, while others are caused by or characterized by a disordered thinking pattern. Problems with thinking can manifest as the subconscious knowing things that shouldn’t be known or feeling disgust at situations that wouldn’t normally provoke disgust.

Being unable to accept how we think about our situation is a core vulnerability. For example, if you have a habitual problem of avoiding saying “no” to inappropriate requests, you are likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you’re faced with a similar request again. If you have a tendency to criticize yourself and others in a negative way, you may start seeing the world from the perspective of an angry person who can’t understand what anyone else is going through.

Blaming yourself for the consequences of your own actions is a habitual vulnerability. It is also one that can create even more problems — because you can’t stop yourself from blaming others.

Another common vulnerability is from holding a reputation as perfectionists or feeling like a failure or loser simply because you don’t live up to your own expectations.

Because we see negative emotions as products of our own thinking patterns, it’s possible to reduce your vulnerability to them with certain strategies.

For example, researchers recently showed that simply deciding that I will never criticize myself again (even when I’m angry) is a strong enough stimulus to reduce my stress. The same is true for changing your bad habits.

So instead of trying to control or fix your negative emotions by learning to respond in a certain way, focus instead on changing the thoughts and emotions that perpetuate them. By tuning into the way you’re feeling, you’re more likely to tune them out, and they can no longer guide your behavior.

Try to create daily routines that are the opposite of your emotional reactions to everyday situations. Identify one negative thought or emotion you have the habit of attaching to a situation, and schedule it to enter your mind on a specific day. For example, if you find yourself feeling angry that you didn’t get a promotion at work, you could think of something that will make you feel better about yourself at work on that day, such as thanking your coworkers for their work. Then, whenever you find yourself feeling angry, you’ll have a way to respond with a positive action to try to alleviate that feeling.

The benefits of acceptance

The nature of mind and body, specifically our vulnerability, makes it extremely difficult for us to completely escape it. And although there are mental health treatments that bring great benefit, the underlying causes of mental health problems rarely disappear completely. As a result, some people will never truly learn to accept themselves, to allow for self-expression, or to let go of patterns of negative thinking or emotional reactivity.

This is one of the many reasons why understanding the various types of vulnerability is so crucial.

And although understanding how to develop healthy coping strategies is extremely important, some people will never be able to completely avoid the impact of their current mental health problems, regardless of how well-practiced and perfect they may be.

This vulnerability isn’t something that only affects children, teens, and young adults; it extends into many aspects of life, including our job and family relationships. The emotional responses to stress in all of these situations are directly related to our vulnerability and the extent of our vulnerability.

For example, it’s likely that many employees spend significant amounts of time crying while working, and this happens when they are working through fear and uncertainty. A combination of certain reactions (like being angry at a manager or colleague, complaining about how you’re treated at work, or feeling guilty for being so unhappy) and beliefs (like that your emotional reactions are normal or acceptable) may drive such behavior.

Unhappy employees typically do not express these emotions openly, and instead have a hard time simply moving on. By trying to change their mind-set and to get comfortable with the full range of emotions (not just their own) and themselves, many can begin to confront this issue in a healthy way.

By accepting the inevitability of vulnerability and coping with it by changing how they think and act, employees will be less likely to develop problematic coping patterns or habits (e.g. over-reacting, procrastinating, or staying in their head). They may even begin to show more compassion for others who face the same challenges they do.

A key component of training is to learn how to respond to our own inner feelings. Being able to recognize and identify our thoughts and emotions is an extremely important step in coping. Here are some common “unhealthy” thinking and emotion patterns to be aware of:

Denial :

When we deny our feelings and thoughts, it can ultimately make us feel worse, not better. Denial involves feeling like we have no control over our thoughts and feelings, and therefore, we feel we have no reason to act out our thoughts or emotions.

: When we deny our feelings and thoughts, it can ultimately make us feel worse, not better. Denial involves feeling like we have no control over our thoughts and feelings, and therefore, we feel we have no reason to act out our thoughts or emotions. Guilt : While often not everyone experiences guilt, guilt often feels like a compulsion or this inner voice that tells us that something isn’t right. Guilt often manifests as negative feelings such as sadness or anger, which are connected to our emotions, including our emotional reactions.

: While often not everyone experiences guilt, guilt often feels like a compulsion or this inner voice that tells us that something isn’t right. Guilt often manifests as negative feelings such as sadness or anger, which are connected to our emotions, including our emotional reactions.

Self-criticism : Self-criticism causes us to look at ourselves and ask ourselves, “How could I be so stupid? Why am I so wrong about something?”

: Self-criticism causes us to look at ourselves and ask ourselves, “How could I be so stupid? Why am I so wrong about something?” Over-explanation : An understandable outcome of denial and blame is over-explanation. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it can sometimes be used as a tool to rationalize and justify our mistakes and error.

: An understandable outcome of denial and blame is over-explanation. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it can sometimes be used as a tool to rationalize and justify our mistakes and error. Overreaction : While some people respond to stressful events by avoiding them, others tend to respond by reacting with other emotions (such as anger or fear). Overreaction can result in self-sabotage and some burnout in that we feel like we “shouldn’t” be doing it at all.

: While some people respond to stressful events by avoiding them, others tend to respond by reacting with other emotions (such as anger or fear). Overreaction can result in self-sabotage and some burnout in that we feel like we “shouldn’t” be doing it at all.

Obsession :

Even if something in life feels overwhelming, we may still feel compelled to do something about it. Obsession is the intense feeling of a need to fix something, whether it’s a problem, a perceived flaw or a feeling that we can’t control something in our lives.

: Even if something in life feels overwhelming, we may still feel compelled to do something about it. Obsession is the intense feeling of a need to fix something, whether it’s a problem, a perceived flaw or a feeling that we can’t control something in our lives. Frustration : Sometimes we find it too hard to make decisions, or we find a situation too difficult to overcome. We may feel like we don’t have a choice and that we’ll be putting our lives at risk. Frustration may manifest as feelings of frustration, boredom or anger, which is a powerful psychological coping mechanism.

: Sometimes we find it too hard to make decisions, or we find a situation too difficult to overcome. We may feel like we don’t have a choice and that we’ll be putting our lives at risk. Frustration may manifest as feelings of frustration, boredom or anger, which is a powerful psychological coping mechanism. Emotion Regulation : Some of us can easily control our emotions. Others can’t. Sometimes, our emotions can reach dangerous levels and we need help coping with them. Getting emotional support and understanding can help us ease or overcome some of our emotions.

: Some of us can easily control our emotions. Others can’t. Sometimes, our emotions can reach dangerous levels and we need help coping with them. Getting emotional support and understanding can help us ease or overcome some of our emotions. Enjoyment : Some of us are “get-rich-quick” types of people and don’t worry about long term success. If we don’t enjoy our work or what we’re doing, we may feel that we don’t deserve to be happy and successful. There are many different types of enjoyment, but if it doesn’t bring us the happiness we want and need, we may go through a tough time of doubt, self-doubt, low self-esteem,

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