Posts Tagged With: Stress

Worrying

The state of being anxious and troubled over actual or potential problems is worry.

Worry is a way of thinking. Imagining the worst. Rushed responses, reacting under fear or duress, work deadlines are all forms of worry. When we rush we worry; while worrying we force ourselves to think about what will happen next. Instead, we should focus on what we can do now. When we think less, think slowly and think positively, then we can understand our thoughts and stay practical. Thinking clearly in the present situation, helps us visualize possible outcomes and next steps. As we begin to think clearly in the present, we programme ourselves to picture the future too. This dissipates anxiety over unknown possibilities. Worrying over how tasks will be completed and creating self-doubts over our competence, limits our ability to respond to challenges.

Flexibility is one solution to overcome worry. This covers acceptance and allows alternate thought processes. It lets us accommodate the unforeseen situations that we encounter and enables us to make the best of things. To an extent worrying is good stress. It can force one to look for creative answers, out of the box solutions. But you need to be in control of these situations.

If you are a worry wart and constantly fret about everything and anything – from health to wealth and everything in between and it sounds like you may be worrying your life away, you are a victim of chronic worrying. This is a mental habit that can be broken and you can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective.

To tackle your chronic worrying problem, start first to distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries. When a worry pops into your head, ask yourself whether the problem is something that can be solved. Is the problem something you’re currently facing, rather than an imaginary one? If the problem is imaginary, how likely is it to happen? Can you do something about the problem or prepare for it, or is it out of your control?

Solvable worries are those on which you can act immediately. Start brainstorming. Make a list of the possible solutions. It is not necessary to find the perfect solution. Focus on the things in your control. Once you have an action plan, you’ll feel much less worried. Developing the ability to embrace your feelings – feel grounded – help to control worrying tendencies.

Chronic worriers can’t stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with 100 percent certainty what’s going to happen. Worrying is then seen as a tool to predict the future. The problem is, this doesn’t work. You may feel safer when you’re worrying, but it’s just an illusion. Focusing on negatives won’t stop them from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying the good things in the present. So, if you want to stop worrying, start by accepting uncertainty. Ask yourself – ‘Is it possible to be certain about everything in life? How would having certainty in life be helpful? Will bad things happen just because they are uncertain? Is it possible to live with the thought that something negative may happen? Don’t look at the world in ways that make it seem more dangerous than it really is. Or treat every negative thought as if it were fact.

Your feelings are impacted by the company you keep. Emotions are contagious. People with whom we spend more time have a greater effect on our mental health. Spend less time with people who make you anxious. Choose your confidantes carefully. Few people will help you introspect, to improve perspective, while most will feed into your worries, doubts, and fears.

Talk therapy can help chronic worriers worry less by getting to the root of their issues. Individuals need to understand what causes their anxiety or what it is related to. Talking to supportive people helps you dig deep enough and go back to the origins of your worrying nature.

Since, worrying is usually focused on the future, the ancient practices of mindfulness and meditation can help by bringing focus back to the present. This strategy is based on observing and then letting them go. Acknowledge your anxious thoughts and feelings. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them. Instead, simply observe them from an outsider’s perspective, without being judgemental. Let your worries go. When you don’t try to control anxious thoughts, they pass by.

Using meditation to stay focused on the present is a simple concept, but it takes practice to reap the benefits. Your mind will inevitably keep wandering back to your worries. Don’t let this frustrate you. Each time you return to the present, you are re-inforcing the habit that will eventually help you break free of the worry cycle.

In situations where nothing can be done to change the outcome, worrying can still serve a motivating function in preparing you for bad news – if it comes. In essence, worry often provides impetus to do something rather than nothing.

“Life is too short to worry about anything. You had better enjoy it because the next day promises nothing.” – Eric Davis

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Don’t Postpone Work

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

To postpone is to cause or arrange for (something) to take place at a time later than that first scheduled. It is the nature of the mind to postpone work to tomorrow. The mind has the habit of flitting from one thing to another, from one thought to another. We have to still the unstable mind, stop it from wandering and focus it on one idea. This needs to be done repeatedly. Unfortunately though, most of us are unable to control the mind. So, we keep postponing the task at hand to tomorrow, which obviously never comes. Poet-saint Kabir put it so succinctly: ‘Kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab / Pal mein pralaya hoyegi, phir karoge kab’ — Do tomorrow’s work today and today’s work now / If this moment is lost, how will the work be done? Kabir advises us not to get into the realm of procrastination. No one knows how ‘tomorrow’ will turn out to be, whether we will be around or not. Time and tide wait for no one. At the end of life’s journey, all unfinished tasks will come to haunt us and we will be full of remorse and regret; this dissatisfaction becomes the cause of transmigration.

If there is something you have to accomplish, don’t postpone it. If it is possible, do it as soon as you can. Even if it is uncomfortable, time wasting or something else. When postponing becomes a habit, you learn to avoid uncomfortable situations. You search excuses not to tackle them. As soon as difficulties come flying in, you run away. That is definitely not the path to be effective or successful.

As long as you continue to avoid the task, nothing will happen and precious time would have flown by before you realize it. No sooner you address the issue, it might take some time to resolve it, but you can move on and focus your energies elsewhere.

Here it’s important to divide tasks into the matrix of Urgent – Non-Urgent v/s Important – Non-important. Highly effective people live in the 2nd quarter – Non-Urgent, Important. Because it’s the most effective way to live and manage your time. They don’t spend time in the 3rd or 4th quarter as these are always unimportant. And to live in the 1st quarter means to deal with constant fire-fighting. It is extremely stressful as you are constantly dealing with urgent AND important issues. Because they are important, you cannot reject them. Because they are urgent you cannot postpone them.

In the 2nd quarter, you deal with things that are important BUT not urgent yet. You have time to solve them without fear of deadlines. This gives you inner peace.

The habit of procrastinating work also keeps us away from spiritual pursuits. The mind tells us ‘enjoy the present moment. There is a lifetime ahead to finish our work’. It seeks to find newer excuses to not do the work at hand. Thus, an entire life might be wasted and there is nothing to show for it. As the deadline to finish a task gets closer, we get stressed and wonder what to do now. The habit of postponing work increases our stress levels.

Live in the 2nd quarter. Complete your work in the moment.

“The clock of life is wound but once, And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop, At late or early hour.
The present is the only time you own, So, live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in ‘tomorrow’, For the clock may be still.”
~ Robert H. Smith

The Clock Of Life 021017

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Calmness – Will Bring Success

“The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.” – James Allen

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. Research shows that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. Research also shows the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health. The thing about stress is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our system is designed in such a way that it will not take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. Performance will be effective under moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.

Hence, it is important to keep stress under control. Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your performance. Fortunately, though, unless you are being chased by a tiger, most of your stress is subjective and can be controlled. There are a few tricks to coping with stress – strategies employed by successful people. Or looking at it another way – people who manage and control their stress levels to enhance their productivity and performance are more successful.

When one begins to talk about them, some of these strategies seem obvious. The real challenge, therefore, lies in recognizing when you need to use them.

Appreciation – What You Have
Take time to contemplate what you’re grateful for. Not because it is right. This improves your mood and it reduces the stress producing hormones. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and you will experience improvement in your mood, your energy, and your physical well-being.

Avoiding – What If ?
“What if ?” statements create suspicion. They cast aspersions on your confidence levels. And they fuel stress and anxiety. Of course, things will go in different directions. Things can always go wrong. But more the time spent worrying about possibilities, means the lesser you have to focus on taking the actions that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want – or need – to go.

Generating – Positive Thoughts
The biggest cliché. Easier said than done. Positive thoughts help. We know it. The idea is to make your brain generate positive thoughts. Give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will stabilize your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In such moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or you can look forward to an exciting event. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.

Detaching – Refresh Your Mind
Taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. To make yourself available 24/7 – to your work – only exposes your to a constant barrage of stress inducements. Forcing yourself offline – simply turning off your phone – can give your body a break from continuous stress. Even an email break can help control stress levels. We know that technology is extremely intrusive. There is constant communication and the expectation that you should be available all the time. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. Detaching yourself from work-related communication is a must. When and how depends on you. Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You will be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your schedule. In fact, not worrying about any negative repercussions this could have is the first step to controlling stress.

Reducing – Intake Of Stimulants
This is not a laughing matter. Coffee breaks can be stimulating. More because the caffeine actually releases adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. This response avoids rational thinking. Of course, it’s great if you are being chased by a tiger, but not so good when all you need to do is calm down and respond to a not-so-nice email. The caffeine puts your brain and body into a hyper-active state and the stress that is created takes a toll on your system.

Sleeping – And Sleeping Well
One cannot say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which incidentally, causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own. Taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

Erasing – Negative Self-Talk
Most of our negative thoughts are just that – thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things, call on your inner voice to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating them. Using words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc., cannot be true. Still, should you feel your statements look like facts, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and seek a second opinion. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive outlook.

Redefining – Your Perspective
Stress and anxiety are fueled by our perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to redefine the situation. To correct this unproductive thought pattern, list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with some simple things – definitely not everything – and the scope of your stress will look far more manageable.

Breathing – Practice It
By far the easiest way to deal with stress – and something you have to do anyway – breathing. The practice of being with your breath will induce your brain to focus solely on the task at hand. (This is also called Meditation and there are many simple techniques to practice – dealt with more extensively – elsewhere in this blog). When you’re feeling stressed, focus on your breathing. You will notice an abnormality. A heaviness, an increased pace. So, put aside all distractions, sit in your chair, close your eyes and just breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breath – to prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but it is the one thing with guaranteed results.

Developing – A Support System
Attempting to tackle everything by yourself may be tempting, but could be quite disastrous. To be really productive, you need to understand your weaknesses and seek help when you need it. This means you should have a support system. Identify friends, colleagues, any individuals in your life whom you can trust. Seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress. At the same time, the replies in this conversation will provide the new perspective you need. This is because doing the same thing and looking at the problem from the same angle causes ‘operational blindness’. Other people can see solutions that you can’t because they are not emotionally involved with the problem.

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A Healthy Mind

A healthy mind is as essential as a healthy body to make a healthy ‘you’. So while it is nutritious food and regular exercise for the body, it is meditation for the mind. The only drawback with meditation is that the enthusiasm seen in the beginning gets lost midway. However, with a few simple tips you might be able to enjoy a more fulfilling practice. First and foremost is to choose an exclusive meditation space, either a corner in your home that you love or a nearby garden/park. Once the space is finalized, settle on a particular time in the day. Early mornings are the best for practice. Set a routine in your mind for regularity without being hard on yourself . The more you try to silence the mind purposefully, the harder meditation becomes. There is no right or wrong technique. So don’t worry, rather enjoy the practice alone in your hideout everyday.

1. Breathing connects us to the present moment.
Mindfulness is a term we often hear, but what does it mean? It’s as simple as breathing. The problem for many of us is that we aren’t aware of our breath. Being aware of our breath connects us to the present moment. In this present moment we are connected to our dreams and desires. When we’re stuck in the past, we can feel depressed or hopeless. And when we lose hope, we cannot heal. When we’re worried about the future, it fuels anxiety. By consciously breathing, we take the peace we foster in our meditation practices into our daily lives.

2. Conscious control of breathing reduces stress.
Anxiety, depression and insomnia are examples of stress-based illnesses that are rooted in the mind’s perception of external stress. By consciously controlling our inhalations and exhalations, we start to shift our autonomic nervous system from a flight-or-fight response to one of the relaxation response. When the brain switches to the relaxation response, the heart rate and blood pressure will decrease, and the brain will regain focus and mental clarity. In this state of breathing and meditation, we also retrain our brains to change our perception of stress, thus reducing our propensity to feel anxious or depressed.

3. Breath connects you to your life purpose.
Career burnout arises when our external world is not in alignment with our internal soul compass. The way we find our life purpose is being aligned with our internal soul compass. Our internal soul compass is the place within us where all the answers reside; some call it intuition, gut instinct, or internal wisdom. It was during the mindful practices of pranayama, yoga, and meditation that I learned to focus on my breath, and then clues to my life purpose started to surface.

Meditation isn’t a marathon! Go at your own pace and don’t be too hard on yourself if you didn’t stick to the schedule you originally had in mind. Take a breath in. Exhale. There you go. You just took a big first step onto your true path.
“Dedicating some time to meditation is a meaningful expression of caring for yourself that can help you move through the mire of feeling unworthy of recovery. As your mind grows quieter and more spacious, you can begin to see self-defeating thought patterns for what they are, and open up to other, more positive options.” – Sharon Salzberg
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