Somehow relaxing, meditating, and mindfulness just hasn’t worked for you.
We’ve all been there. Too much to do in too little time. It seems like almost everyone we talk to these days is stressed out. Whether it’s work, relationships, politics, climate change, school, the future – it doesn’t really matter. It just seems like things are more stressful than ever. And you’re not the only one that feels that way. A recent survey found that 75 percent of working people feel they are more stressed-out than working people during their parents’ generation.
So, what can we do about it?
For decades people have been trying to reduce their stress through relaxing or meditating or using other Eastern approaches. For many people, it works fine. For many others, well, let’s just say they’re still pretty tense. For some people, just asking them about their mindfulness course gets them even more anxious. Recently, even the American Psychological Association (APA) published an article that questioned the value of billions of dollars invested in trying to reduce away anxiety.
What’s an alternative strategy?
You may have heard about building your hardiness mindset. Paul has spent more than 40 years studying hardiness as an approach to handling stress – mostly during his career as a military psychologist. Teaching and researching leadership at the West Point Military Academy has even strengthened his views on the value of a hardiness mindset.
Reducing the physiological aspects of stress – heart rate, sweating, breathing, hormone secretions – is very difficult to do. Changing your mind about your experience, however, is an easier way to go. Research has found that the physiological aspects of stress and excitement are very similar. It’s the mental or cognitive aspects that are really different – basically, what you tell yourself about the situation.
Forty years of research on hardiness has come up with three factors that are important here – we call them the 3 C’s. The first is commitment. People who deal well with stress have a purpose or goals they are trying to achieve in life. The second is control. They know what aspects of themselves and their situations they can control and which aspects they can’t influence or won’t make a difference. Finally, there’s challenge. People who manage stress well don’t get overwhelmed by the situation, they see difficulties as a puzzle to be solved. They welcome change and look for the advantages of learning and experiencing new things.
We know it sounds easier than it is. But here’s something you can try next time you get anxious about an event or work assignment. Ask yourself what it is about the event that makes you anxious. What would be the worst that could happen if you failed? Then ask yourself what you could learn as a result of the experience. Next, try and focus on the excitement of learning something new. You might even want to reflect back to your childhood and your experience of learning to swim, ride a bike, or play a musical instrument. While you may recall some trepidation in learning new skills, the outcome was usually pretty rewarding.
Re-framing your anxiety into excitement can help you improve your performance, health, and general peace of mind. We’ve seen and documented the positive changes that people have experienced as a result. So, do yourself a favour, if relaxation isn’t working for you, try thinking differently – start with the 3 C’s.
Original article: You’ve Tried Relaxation but You’re Still Stressing Out