Dealing With Stress — some ideas

Deal­ing with stress — there are both men­tal and phys­i­cal tech­niques for deal­ing with stress. Here are a few men­tal techniques.

Dealing with Stress — To deal adequately with stress, we need to approach what we are doing to ourselves from several angles.

Dis­tress effects us on at least three lev­els — phys­i­cal­ly, men­tal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly. If we do not devel­op a strat­e­gy for deal­ing with the stress on all of the effect­ed lev­els, we will only feel par­tial relief, and will soon “loop back” — to the lev­el of stress we feel is “nor­mal.” The prob­lem is, most of us are “wound way too tight.”

A cou­ple we know took a 3 week hol­i­day. I asked him how it went. “Great,” he said. “Although I did­n’t relax until the end of the sec­ond week.”

This is what I’m talk­ing about. He’s in a high stress occu­pa­tion, and that stress seems nor­mal. He goes on hol­i­day and for two weeks expects “the oth­er show to drop,” despite the fact that there are vir­tu­al­ly no stres­sors present. Final­ly, with­out his inter­ven­tion, his body began to re-align itself.

We sug­gest that this process can be under our con­trol, and that unnec­es­sary stress can be let go of. This requires both patience and prac­tice, and is not a “one time, fast fix.”

Mind Games

As we said in the intro­duc­tion, very lit­tle of our stress is caused by actu­al, scary, stress­ful events. Our stress is main­ly caused by our inter­pre­ta­tions. The fol­low­ing exer­cis­es slow our minds and et us re-exam­ine the sto­ries we are telling ourselves.

Our favourite technique for dealing with stress

The Name Game

The Name Game is a sim­ple exer­cise for slow­ing down the men­tal chat­ter and carv­ing our some men­tal silence.

Exer­cise: Sit com­fort­ably. Begin look­ing around the space you are in. As you look at a door, inter­nal­ly say, “door.” Imme­di­ate­ly move your head, focus on some­thing, and name it. Do this for a minute or two.

This “game” caus­es the end­less men­tal noise to “go back­ground,” as you bring your focus onto a spe­cif­ic task. As you do this, you’ll notice that your breath­ing slows and your “stressed feel” lessens.

Exer­cise: Now, let’s tune in on all the “stuff” going on around you that you’ve fil­tered out, while you focussed on your inter­nal the­atre. Lis­ten for a minute or two. What do you hear? How much had you heard pri­or to pay­ing atten­tion? Your ears were hear­ing all of those things (you don’t think sound waves aren’t there if you’re not pay­ing atten­tion to them, do you?), but fil­ter­ing them out. So you could obsess.
More. Use your skin now. How’s the tem­per­a­ture? How’s your butt? Numb? Can you feel the chair? Check out your clothes from the inside. Can you feel the elas­tic or belt around your waist? (Oh! How nice! You’re doing this exer­cise in the nude! What do you FEEL with your skin?)
And more. What do you smell? How’s your mouth taste? (Where’s that cof­fee cup?) How do you feel, emo­tion­al­ly, today? What’s on your mind, in addi­tion to this exercise?

You’re now qui­et­ly and alert­ly “in your head.” Just notice how com­fort­able it can be in there, when you’re not “on” about something.

The New Perspective

We’re now going to look at the sto­ry you were just stress­ing your­self out over. I don’t claim any own­er­ship of this tech­nique — many ther­a­pists have cre­at­ed lists of ques­tions to ask yourself. 

Let’s look at an exam­ple. Your boss calls you in and points out an error in your work, and indi­cates she’d like you to fix the error and, in the future, to be more conscientious.

You go to my desk, and think, “That’s not fair! She should­n’t crit­i­cize me. Now I sup­pose I’m going to get fired. I’ll starve!”

What, you think peo­ple don’t do this? Of course they do. And they cre­ate stress in the process. And if you don’t catch your­self, you begin to believe this odd sto­ry in your head, and make it real. Soon, “what hap­pened” is replaced by “what I’m telling myself about what I think I remem­ber happening.”

So, you qui­et your mind. Then you begin to exam­ine your game. 

  1. Is what I am telling myself an accu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion, or is it me, cre­at­ing drama? 

“It’s not fair!” Ask your­self: what do you mean by fair? Was your work inac­cu­rate? Do you think that no one should be crit­i­cized for inac­cu­rate work, or do you annoy your­self only when you are crit­i­cized? Are you real­ly going to get fired? Will you real­ly starve?

  1. Is my focus on the present moment, or have I moved my atten­tion to the past or the future? 

Am I replay­ing what hap­pened accu­rate­ly, or am I remem­ber­ing past inci­dents, either with my boss or with oth­ers, that I hurt myself over? Am I in the moment, think­ing about fix­ing the flaw in my work and resub­mit­ting it, or am I imag­in­ing some time in the future when I’ll be hauled in, drawn and quar­tered and fired?

  1. What is the pur­pose of what I am telling myself? 

Am I focussed on a solu­tion, or on excus­ing myself, blam­ing my boss, and, in the process, mak­ing myself miserable?

  1. What could I do right now that would allow me to bring peace to this situation? 

Here. we move to actu­al­ly doing some­thing. In the above sit­u­a­tion, once the dra­ma is carved away, the solu­tion is as sim­ple as fix­ing the mis­take and hand­ing the cor­rec­tion to your boss, per­haps with a “Thanks for catch­ing that error. I appre­ci­ate the chance to fix it.”

You will notice that this process moves us from men­tal “squir­rel caging” (going round and round, nev­er get­ting any­where – repeat­ed­ly cov­er­ing the same ground.) This process gets us off the loop of feel­ing bad and mak­ing it worse, by elim­i­nat­ing the sto­ries (fair­ness, expect­ing to be “Teflon”, get­ting fired, starv­ing) and back to the real issue — there is a prob­lem to correct.

Meditation and Relaxation

Per­haps the most effec­tive solu­tion to the undis­ci­plined voic­es in our heads is found through learn­ing to med­i­tate. We sug­gest check­ing with your local con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion department(s) as cours­es are offered in Med­i­ta­tion tech­niques through­out Cana­da and the US.

If you wish to learn pro­gres­sive relax­ation and visu­al­iza­tion tech­niques, vis­it­ing your local library will pro­vide resources, as will check­ing the prod­ucts of Sounds True, a pur­vey­or of self devel­op­ment tapes.

Scroll to Top