The Secret of Stress Management - Part I

When it comes to psychology, I’m kinda like a chef. Chefs cook food they would like to eat. I’m that way with psych stuff; I talk about things that work for me or insights that help me.

Stress management is one of the big ones. I’m busy, you’re busy, everyone’s busy. We’re all busy and burned out and broke.

And we all know the answer to reducing stress right? Yup, relax. You just need to relax.

So tell me, what do you do to relax? (Examples – take a bath, listen to music, watch TV, go for a walk, etc).

All of these activities make it worse. Indeed, a nurse told my wife the other day that she should take up yoga. Horrible advice, if you do that and only that. I’ve even suggested a thing called the \“unburdening exercise\”:

But if you can’t learn to relax your mind none of this will work.

There is a clear reason for this – all of the examples above of “how to relax” have one thing in common; not doing much of anything. Of course, not doing much of anything frees your mind up to think about other things – and what do stressed people think about when they’re not busy? All of the things they have to get done! In other words, they just think about being stressed. And what’s worse is, all of the activities they use to relax are only reminders of that.

Because you are relaxing in order to escape stress, the thoughts of stress and relaxing begin to occur together, they become associated. That means that when you think about one, you think about the other. So every time you think about relaxing, you’re just inviting yourself to think about all of the stress you’re using relaxation to escape.

And that’s why it makes it worse. You think you’re relaxing, you think you’re taking a break, but all you’re really doing is giving yourself some time to REALLY focus on being stressed out.

Guess what this results in – yup, procrastination. And what does procrastination do for you? It puts off the things you have to do, reducing the time you have to do them, increasing your stress, thus further increasing your procrastination and so on until we all go freaking nuts and want to just walk away from everything.

Anyway, this is my experience, maybe some of it sounds familiar to you.

I haven’t even gotten to the secret yet.

The secret is that we all have plenty of time to do what we need to get done. We all have the energy to complete what’s ahead of us. Maybe not in the next 2 hours, but we have it. We all have the patience we need to make it through a challenging time.

BUT it doesn’t feel that way. It feels overwhelming.

Why? Why do we make errors of prediction in terms of how long things take or how hard things are? We’ve all had the experience of sitting down and just getting one of the things on our list done. What do we usually find? Does it take the 4 weeks of 15-hour days to complete it that we thought it would? Nope, just a couple hours of concentration and we’re done.

So where does the prediction or time estimation error come from? And how can we combat it?

Understanding why we make these kinds of errors is will be the focus of The Secret of Stress Management – PART II, which I\‘ll post in two weeks.

Until then just relax!! j/k ;)

The Secret of Stress Management – Part II ››

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