Rescuing Yourself from Stress
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
Are you familiar with the kind of people that just aim and take action? Those that surf through the foggy mist of everyday events that life throws at them being able to respond with clear choices on the go? Brilliant, I know! There are also some others who freeze in the face of adversity, who prefer to have clear skies above and a reliable forecast. There’s something peaceful about just knowing the weather conditions in advance and being able to get ready for the rain in case it comes. Funny enough, while this is true, a forecast is still only that, and this fact makes the peace that comes with it pretty feeble. I can only imagine the confusion of blindly trusting a forecast of sunny skies and running into a sudden thunderstorm “but, but… it said that… but… I didn’t bring an umbrella or a jacket.” I’d sure be nerve-wracked and furious at the meteorological service. Sadly forecasts do not provide certainty.
In the past, I have significantly experienced the cold sensation of procrastination, as I’m sure you have as well. Procrastinating is such a subtle action, but over time it has the potential to drive your life down the hill, and it bluntly does for many. It is not that people want to waste life moments to lack of action; it’s that procrastination is just the tip of a titanic iceberg (pun intended). Psychological studies have observed how procrastinating can be a response to feeling overwhelmed and therefore, be used as a stress coping mechanism. This is such an important subject because it affects the one thing that can make or break your life; your ability to take action. It is the difference between sitting in the car thinking of the beach and actually driving the car and getting there.
I’m saying that procrastination is a stress coping mechanism. Now, if we wanted to create a visual of the structure of stress, we could picture it as the trunk of a tree; its branches being the trillion possible effects of stress, and the roots being the many possible causes of it. From the big assortment of elements that could originate stress, I believe that our human need to predict the future with certainty wanting it to match our expectations is one of the big ones. Trying to control life is not unusual behaviour, I have seen it once and again, and many times in the mirror. Ironically, it is a conceptual confusion that brings this compulsion to life, given that we tend to mistake certainty with clarity.
Let’s start by shedding some light on each of these. Clarity is a life stance, a fundamental point of view, and an evolving process that defines what’s important in life and how you respond to it. Certainty is a static target, as you can only be sure of what you’ve already created. In simple terms, clarity is a vision of the present-future; certainty is a snapshot of the present-past. Tension starts to form when we seek to be certain of the future, and we do this because we’re afraid of risk. Given that certainty isn’t found anywhere in the future, fear arises and becomes the force with which we create our life; and fear creates more fear.
We want certainty that our expectations will be met so to avoid any risk, and it is not only common, but normal. In contrast with certainty, clarity provides a vision of how our actions may create our life, of what we see our life becoming; but clarity does not guarantee expectations nor eliminate risk. We need to realize that there is no gain without risk; it’s just the way it works. It’s even stated in economics, “profit is the reward for risk-taking.” Lack of risk only exists in results, in actions already taken. By only being willing to move without risk, we render ourselves unable to create our present and our future.
I understand that this may be a sensitive subject, as it is true that our clarity gets blurry when we face fear. We don’t want to see what we’re afraid of, so we tend to protect ourselves by denying it, and along the way, we lose all possibility of becoming clear. Even though clarity can be harsh because it leads us straight into taking responsibility for our life, without clarity of what truly is, we would only have the fear of what could be.
Have you ever heard the quote: “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because its trust is not on the branch but on its own wings?” One of my favourites.
Clarity is found internally, its the bird trusting its wings if the branch breaks. Certainty is sought after externally, its the bird expecting that the branch won’t break. In the end, true peace comes from clarity, from being present, focused on our strengths, clear on how we’ll respond to what life throws at us, and willing to take action even with some level of uncertainty – something I’m still working on myself.
To transition from wanting certainty to creating clarity, follow these simple steps:
Identify an area of your life where you have high expectations from someone or something. It can be your relationships, work, a process, an application, your health, etc.
Ask yourself the following questions with bold honesty: a. What result do I expect from this? b. What do I think will happen if it turns out as I want it to? c. How will I feel if it turns out as I want it to? d. What do I think will happen if it doesn’t turn out as I want it to? e. How will I feel if it doesn’t turn out as I want it to?
Notice that until now, the external outcome of that situation has power over your inner world. If you want to recover that power, keep on reading.
Make a decision to create clarity, take responsibility for your life and ask yourself the following question with bold honesty. Based on what I want my life to become, what would be the best way for me to respond to the following scenarios? a. The situation in question met my expectations b. The situation in question did not meet my expectations
Based on your answers, create a statement of clarity (also known as an if/then statement). For example: a. When I get admitted to the master’s degree program, I will celebrate and honour my effort. b. If I don’t get admitted into the master’s degree program, I commit to apply again next year, learn from the experience and create a stronger application, invest this year’s time in other activities that nourish my career and gets me closer to my goals and keep my eyes open for the opportunities that life presents to me. I commit to acknowledge my emotions and honouring them without letting them consume me.
Use your statement of clarity like a mantra. Learning how to access highly suggestible states of mind like hypnosis can be a game changer when attempting to live life free of unnecessary stress.
Very important note. This does not mean you won’t do your best, always do your best and once you’ve done it, there’s nothing outside that you can do. All you can do is get clear on how you’ll respond to life.