Today we’ll discuss how I handle stress. Over the last few years I’ve been given ample opportunities to either deal with stress or suffer suffer serious health consequences. These stressors have been relentless and in some cases incredibly serious. How then do I make it? The truth is that sometimes I don’t. Sometimes stress wins and I suffer terribly for it. It would be naïve of me to think that I can always win out against stress and I hope you never find yourself feeling a failure when it wins.
That’s the first step really. Understanding that sometimes you won’t come out on top and you will suffer for it. Your goal should be to reduce the number of losses and to reduce the impact those losses have on you. This is your best bet to better emotional health, at least as far as I have found.
Lately my strategies for stress relief have been working fairly well. They all center around one core idea: soft. It’s a bit abstract but the general idea is that I start thinking soft. If you’ve ever had to take sleeping medication or really strong pain killers you’ll know what I’m getting at better than if you haven’t. When I was taking vicodin my dentist told me “It doesn’t make the pain go away it just makes you stop caring.” I didn’t really know what that entailed until I had my wisdom teeth removed and was taking it regularly.
The pain was there, life was there, stress was there, but I’ll be darned if I just didn’t care. Not apathy necessarily but more like a sense of grandeur. I felt like all these problems were around but they were just motes in the wind. Tomorrow they’d be forgotten and nobody involved would be dwelling on it so why should I? My mouth and brain might be throbbing from the four missing teeth but that’s not a big deal. Just relax and move on.
You don’t numb yourself to life, not like vicodin does, you are instead selectively numbing yourself to unnecessary stressors. An important part of this soft mindset is to understand what are and what are not important stressors. A mentally incapable manager is not an important stressor. Their inability to grasp life or social norms is not your concern. They will fail and you will live on.
An important stressor is something like the health of your kids or yourself. Making sure you have food and potable water. On the more selfish side making sure you have a good book to read. Things that help keep you happy and healthy. Those are the important stressors. All the petty things people and society try to weigh down upon you are not important. They will be worth as much as a spent match in a puddle in very little time. A day, a year, a decade at most. The things that we considered critically important as individuals and as a society in the 90’s is night and day compared to what is no “important” culturally in the 2000’s and 2010’s.
This is because most of it is just noise. Distractions built by people with little in the way of wisdom or intelligence trying to fill your brain with the same amount of nutritionally void filth as their own is encumbered by. The real important things don’t actually change from decade to decade.
The particulars might, new technologies open new nouns to the conversation but the actual topics remain unchanged at the core level.
Once I’m thinking soft I then try to act soft. This part is a bit strange. When I walk around I try to minimize my impact on everything. I flex my muscles at the right time to make no sound with my steps, I reduce the up and down motion of my steps so that it looks like I’m just floating along, and I think about interesting things.
People, Science, Mathematics, perhaps a game or book that’s on my mind. I start picking them apart while I’m going through my life. When we were at Ikea I was thinking about how I relax and that helped me relax. People would cut in front of us or slow us down, people would just genuinely act miserable and terrible, but none of it got to me. I just shrugged it off and remembered that their actions hold as much weight on my life as a crumbling leaf in fall.
Clueless people are not my concern. There are 7 billion people in the world and the ones that interest me are the ones that want to be here. The people who are curious, sweet, intelligent. Those are the people that deserve residence in my mind, not some cheddar puff coated stranger who rushed in front of me to nag someone about the price of some random trinket.
It’s not a matter of being better than other people either. Stress relief for me is just about counting the numbers and putting more weight on the beautiful things in life. Try and recognize which wrongs are actually worth your time and energy. The less you spend your energies fighting the frivolities of life the more time and energy you’ll have for truly big problems. The fewer jersey shore humanoids you contemplate the more mental room you’ll have for the Bill Nye’s of the world.
You might be thinking to yourself that you can’t think away stress any more than you can not think about Elephants. Once its brought up its on your mind and it has domain. But we have more control over our brains than we might realize. The act of learning is forcing your brain to change how it acts and what it contains. There is not a brain born that needs to know when Washington became a state, it doesn’t help them stay healthy or help them breed. But we do it, we change our brains to fit what we value. Think of this like taking the power of an eating disorder and reshaping it to better suit your needs.
You are taking that mental virus and reconfiguring it to replicate more positively. That overwhelming desire to do something destructive becomes an overwhelming desire to do something constructive.
It’s well within your control and all it takes is a little bit of persistence and desire. Once you truly want the pain to end you’ll have the power to do so. Not always, likely nothing is that perfect, but certainly often enough to be worth your time. Once the smell of a rose sticks in your mind longer than the Prius that cut you off on the expressway you’ll know you’ve made it.