A practical remedy (actually 3) to fight stress effectively.
"Often we don't see things for what they are: we see them for what ... we are".
Lo stress it is an "intense emotional reaction to a series of external stimuli that set in motion physiological and psychological responses of an adaptive nature". Translated for us mere mortals: we are stressed when we have the perception of not being able to face the events that happen in our life.
I bet you have also had stressful days or even long periods of time: the preparation of University exams, the completion of important work projects, the management of a casa and a family, they can all be huge sources of stress. In these situations you feel overwhelmed by events, powerless in the face of things "bigger than you", completely emptied.
Is there any way to stem this sense of overwhelm? Maybe a series of tricks that allow you, if not to eliminate anxiety and nervousness, at least to face them with confidence? In short, there is an effective technique for fight stress?
Distortion of time as a cause of stress
Just a few weeks ago I was telling you how several scientists have very good reasons to believe that time does not exist (wtf ?!). The word "end" has not yet been said on this topic, but we are sure of one thing: time is subjective, both for physics and above all for psychology.
I don't need to tell you this to convince you of this simple truth: how many times have you seen time literally fly away and others in which the hands of the clock seemed to have frozen? Our perception of time can be radically influenced by outdoor that we are doing, from people with which we are or ours moods. Then there are situations in which our brain literally goes haywire and completely distorts the flow of time, generating violent emotional reactions in our body: stress.
These conditions occur whenever we are faced with activities that we consider beyond our means: in the previous post we talked about how write the thesis; other great examples of stress-generating activities may be the upcoming work deadlines or the 10.000 tasks a parent faces (if you're a working mom I just dare imagine how explosive the mix of the two can be). But what is it that stresses us so much about these situations?
Stress, as mentioned, arises from the sense of overwhelm; this feeling in turn arose from one distorted perception of time: our mind begins to obsessively think about all the activities we have to do, and these visualizations are so powerful (I recommend you read this post on effective visualization techniques), that we are seriously convinced that we have to do all the work, in one instant, without a moment's respite. This belief triggers violent chemical reactions in our body which is prepared to face this enormous amount of (imaginary) work with adrenaline and cortisol bursts. Stress won.
But there is a solution ...
Use three-dimensional thinking against stress
To combat GetPersonalGrowth stress you need to get back to having a realistic perception of time and activities to complete. Every time you find yourself facing an important study / work project, learn to stop for a very brief moment of awareness and perceive the set of activities that you have to perform in their three-dimensional nature. Try to create a real 3-dimensional image of your project in your mind:
- Feel the lunghezza: how much time do you have available to complete your job? (eg what is the date of the first session of your exam?).
- Test it there width: How many hours should you work each day to get prepared for your deadline?
- Imagine touching it depth: as important as this project may be, you have a life outside of your study and work; understanding that there is not only this project, that there are other activities that can help you relax and enjoy your life will allow you to give the right… depth to your project.
The moment you manage to give your engagements their true three-dimensional nature, the sense of overwhelm magically vanishes. However, years of dysfunctional thinking cannot be wiped out with a simple visualization: to learn to think in 3 dimensions you must be able to consistently apply a series of stratagems ad hoc. Here are the best.
Practical applications of three-dimensional thinking
Knowing that your mind distorts time and unnecessarily generates anxiety and nervousness is an important act of awareness, but it is not enough to fight stress. You have to take a little more step, you have to apply those strategies that really allow you to think in 3 dimensions:
- Learn to do backward planning. Backward planning was one of the pillars of mine university study method. Even today I apply the principles of backward planning to tackle my most complex projects. This activity planning system allows you to look at your project in the right perspective, helping you to distribute the many activities along the time line. Yes but, how does it work ?! In backward planning you start from the deadline of your project and define (backwards, in fact) the activities that must be carried out day by day, until you arrive at the present moment. Imagine having to complete your project on June 30th: what do you have to do on April 29th, 28th… April 5th, today ?! By planning your activities in this way, you regain control over your project, focus on the work to be done here and now, and significantly reduce stress.
- Define daily goals. The more a goal is distant in time, the more we have a vague (if not distorted) perception of it. The secret to truly achieving your most ambitious goals (and fighting stress) is to turn them into daily goals. This will allow you to give your goals the right… width. Imagine you want to earn € 1 million: what is the first activity you should do today to achieve your goal? Big goals can be a source of motivation, but only the tasks you complete today will help you achieve them. Be it a daily workout plan for achieve your ideal weight, or the number of pages you have to study each day for prepare your university exam, remember to always define daily goals for your goals, otherwise they will remain only dreams in the drawer or unattainable desires.
- Worry about getting started and not getting your work done. Much of our stress comes from the spasmodic attention we put into completing our project. We are worried about having to complete an immense amount of activity, we are nervous about the short time available to us, we are terrified of the deadlines that are now imminent. In short, our mind is always projected into a dark and gloomy future, and has lost the ability to perceive the depth of your projects. But your life is here and now. If you want to fight stress you have to learn to focus on the present moment, but above all you have to learn to worry about starting your work and not completing it. It is no coincidence that stress is one of the main causes of procrastination, and it is no coincidence that to fight stress you must first stop procrastinating (let's say I could tell you a couple of little things on the subject ;-).