Eliminate 80-90% of Your Stress in FIVE SECONDS
Why you should read this. About 9 minutes
A study from Harvard shows we waste 46.9% of our waking hours each day thinking about negative junk that interferes with our lives. That’s almost EIGHT HOURS every day that we throw away. This 9-minute read will give you the tools you need to decrease your negative thinking and get more hours a day that you can use to pursue your hopes, dreams, and plans.
Stress is not what you have been told. This stress eliminator will give you the concepts and procedures to understand what stress really is and a “tool” you can use to eliminate 80-90% of the “bad” stress in your life in 5 Seconds, or Less.
This stress eliminator will also help with the times when you don’t feel distressed, but you find your focus is drifting off a task you need to get done. The procedures will help you regain and maintain your ability to focus on getting your work done, because the same brain processes are at work when your focus wanders as when you are feeling stressed.
It is amazing to see how the definitions for stress have changed over time. In his original paper, published in 1936, Hans Selye defined stress as “the body’s non-specific reaction to any demand for change.”
By the 1960s psychologists and psychiatrists were focused on negative emotional states as the source of stress. Dr. Richard Lazarus defined psychological stress as a “particular relationship between the person and environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her wellbeing.”
Over a course of 30 years, stress had changed from any demand for change to something we perceive as an overwhelmingly threatening emotion that comes from our perceived inability to handle something.
This later definition is the one we have been conditioned to believe defines stress, but it is a really disempowering definition. It keeps us locked in the belief we are helpless to do anything about it other than distract ourselves from the things that are stressing us. Any website about stress will offer you basically the same advice about what you should do AFTER you figure out you are stressed.
Their tips all say stress can be managed by regular exercise, meditation or other relaxation techniques, structured timeouts, seeking support from loved ones, or learning new coping strategies.
All these tips tell you to do something other than what you are stressing about and you will feel better. And they are all exactly right. You will feel better, temporarily. But the distracting activities actually have nothing to do with what is causing you stress, do they?
Let me introduce you to two of the guiding principles behind all teachings you will find on this site. Facts and Required Energy.
A fact has no emotions. We certainly have emotions about facts, but the fact itself has no emotions. A fact is something that is supported by evidence. A fact is verifiable. Emotions require conscious involvement to create them.
It requires a lot less energy to avoid creating a problem than it does to fix one. For example, it takes a lot more energy to put out a fire than it does to be careful not to start one.
If we accept the original definition of stress, “any demand for change,” as a fact and as the actual definition of the concept we call stress, we are immediately more empowered than we were a couple minutes ago. We now have a working definition. There are of course a huge number of different kinds and levels of demands and stresses or stressors, but understanding the concept empowers us to create procedures for managing those “demands.” And, having better skills will enable us to manage the demands better.
Selye made the point, and the experts agree, that the body always has work to do so there is always some stress. He repeatedly reminded his audiences that even while we are sleeping there is stress. Our heart keeps beating and we keep breathing. While we are dreaming, our adrenal glands are busy putting our hormones. He says the only human that has no stress is a dead one.
Stress should be considered simply as work the body must do, or the wear and tear on our body.
Good Stress The demands for change that we interpret as emotionally positive, or demands we like, create in us “good” feelings, and these he termed “eustress.” This is the kind of stress we enjoy.
Bad Stress The demands for change that we interpret emotionally negative, or demands we don’t like, create in us “bad” the feelings, and these he termed “distress.” This is the type of stress that harms us the most and destroys our health.
Both distress and eustress cause wear and tear on our bodies. Both can lead to exhaustion and damage to our bodies.
However, and it is a huge however, our cerebral cortex can quickly, certainly, and easily distinguish the difference between spending a lazy Sunday afternoon making love or having a root canal.
So, the type of stress we need to learn better procedures for, is distress. From this point on I will no longer just call it stress. I will be a lot more precise and refer to something as either distress or eustress. As you can now see, they are very different.
Some distressing events we cannot avoid. Loved ones move away or die. We lose our job. We break a bone. We become ill. Those things we cannot avoid but we can learn to keep them in perspective.
Human adults think in stories. They can be good stories, bad stories, happy stories, sad stories, scary stories or hopeless stories. The most important thing about our stories is that we make them up. We write them.
Sometimes they contain facts but most often they are fantasies, and they are negative fantasies. The energy we create when we have to work at fixing a problem that was created by one of our distressing stories is always negative.
If we tell ourselves the same distressing story long enough we will eventually believe it.
Here is an example of how variable the effects of our story may be.
The Stress Suitcase.
Imagine you are carrying a fifty-pound suitcase.
You might be:
- Going on a vacation
- Going to a funeral
- Smuggling cash out of the country
- Moving to a new home
- Moving out of your childhood home
- Throwing out a cheating spouse
- Going on a work trip
In each case, the suitcase weighs fifty pounds, regardless of the reason you are carrying it. The actual “stress,” is the weight your body has to carry. That weight, fifty pounds, is the same in each situation.
Besides the contents of the suitcase, what is different about each situation? Emotions! The different emotions associated with each situation are the only variables.
If you like the reason you are carrying the suitcase, it is called “eustress,” and the suitcase feels lighter.
If you have negative emotions about the reason you are carrying the suitcase, it is called “distress,” and the suitcase will feel heavier. If you are throwing out a cheating spouse, you might not even feel the weight because your hurt and your anger may have given you enough energy to throw that damned suitcase clear across the yard.
You can see it isn’t anything like what you were taught. Here is a summary about the concept of stress. Stress is the actually the work the body must do, the work of living.
There are basically two kinds of work.
Eustress is the work we like. We can all think of things we have done all day because we were enjoying our self so much, and we went to sleep exhausted. But when we woke up the next morning we were ready to do it all over again. That’s real Eustress. It is true that having so much fun can also wear out our body, but I will sign up for that one in a New York second.
The other kind of work is distress. It is the work we don’t like. It will make us unhappy, sick, and eventually kill us, but ever so slowly, and we will not enjoy the experience.
We need to be able to distinguish between the three.
- What is the actual stress in this situation?
- Am I feeling Eustress?
- Am I feeling Distress?
The quickest way to do that is to look carefully at the facts of the situation.
Walking into a church is a good example to illustrate the correct procedure when considering the work involved. What is our observation regarding walking into the church? There is the work of walking the body must do to get you into the church.
That is the most accurate and factual observation. The observation answers the question, what is the actual stress involved, or the work being done by the body.
The body does not care if it is walking into a wedding or walking into a funeral. The body is focused on walking into a church.
Besides taking care of the walking, our brain is also busy telling us a story about WHY we are walking into the church. We have chosen the story line and it is the story that actually creates the feelings that dictates if the event is eustress or if it is distress.
A vitally important thing to remember is that Eustress and Distress are both stories. They are stories we tell ourselves about the work our body must do.
The stories can be about real things, or they can be about imaginary things. We make that choice. Eustress is almost never a problem, unless we are using a pleasurable activity to the extreme that it interferes with the rest of our life. Usually we don’t need to decrease the amount of eustress we have in our lives.
What we want, and need, is to do is decrease the amount of unnecessary distress in our lives. Significantly decreasing our level of distress will create a huge amount of time and energy to do the things we want to do. A study from Harvard concludes we spend almost seven and a half hours a day focused on our stories and not on our life.
We can train our brain to avoid creating so many distressing stories and not be so influenced by negative emotional content. After all, we were the one who trained it to tell those stories and be so open to making choices based on the momentary emotion, so we can re-train it not to do that without our permission.
Here are three facts you need to study until you can feel how accurate they are.
- There is a huge difference between worry and danger. We really need to be able to distinguish between the two. If we stop and think about them the differences are obvious. Danger carries with it the very real potential of physical harm. Examples of real danger include smoke, fire, guns, knives, poisons, politicians, priests, or cars coming at us.
Those are actually dangerous, and when we find ourselves in a dangerous situation it is natural that we feel fear, ”F.E.A.R.” The letters in this kind of fear stand for Forget Everything And Run.
- The kind of distress we can avoid comes from stories we make up; the stories we imagine. When we make up a story about “what if, or what will he do, she do, they do, what if I do this or that, or what if that happens, can’t do it, don’t want to do it, shouldn’t, etc.,” it is just a story and we feel fearful.
We feel fear because the story makes our brain create the fight or flight chemicals. But this time F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.
- Since we are almost never in actual danger, over 99 percent of our distress comes from negative, worrisome, distressing stories we are telling ourselves.
We feel the same way with the real danger story that we feel with the imaginary danger story. This is because the part of our brain that handles emotions is simply not smart enough to tell whether the fear we are feeling is from actual danger or if it is coming from our imaginary story so it directs our brain to make the same fight or flight chemicals and we feel the same sensations.
The stories we tell ourselves are like movies. Happy movies make us laugh. Sad movies make us cry. Action movies get us on edge. Angry movies make us feel angry. And hot steamy sexy movies, well, they make us hurry home.
Almost all of our emotional distress, at least ninety-nine percent, is simply the result of these stories we tell ourselves about our life. If you want to prove this for yourself, the next time you are feeling fearful, nervous, anxious, or distressed just look around. If you can see something that is actually dangerous, run for safety. We should feel fear when there is danger. That’s normal.
Practicing The Process
The following procedure, call it a tool if you like, is by far the best method I have yet to develop for helping you quickly take control and change what is going on in your brain. If you practice the following tool, your level of distress will decrease significantly in a very short time. The entire time required to complete the process is about FIVE SECONDS.
When confronted by a potentially negative situation or negative thoughts, instead of becoming emotionally involved and creating a new one or calling up a rerun of a distressing story full of negative emotions, here is a reliable, quick, and easy tool that will stop your distress in its tracks.
Change the Channel
Telling and re-telling yourself negative stories is like watching a movie you know will make you miserable. You wouldn’t watch the movie, would you? You would either Change the Channel or turn off the TV.
The story, the movie, is being generated in your own brain. Since it is your story and you are in absolute control of your own programming, you can Change the Channel by thinking about something else.
Here is the Change the Channel tool in the form that, if you practice regularly for at least two weeks, and preferably a month, will yield the best results.
As soon as you realize you are becoming distressed by a negative story you are telling yourself,
Physically look around to see if there is danger present. If there is, run. If there is no danger you know the feelings are being generated in your brain by your story.
The physical act of looking for danger interrupts your automatic thinking habit. Looking around is extremely important, especially in the beginning.
Interrupting your thinking habit also creates a space in your thinking and allows you the opportunity to change what you are thinking about. Using this space will allow you to gain control of your thoughts.
Use that space to choose something else to think about, choose a different story.
Pick something neutral or a pleasant memory. Don’t try to change to positive thinking because in the moment you are changing from the negativity of distress to neutral you are very unlikely to believe anything positive can happen.
After practicing this for a while, when negative feelings begin to creep in, a simple reminder to Change the Channel is often all that is needed to stop the process. Some people use statements such as: I don’t need to go there. I can choose where I want to go.
Change the Channel also works well when you don’t feel distressed but find your focus is drifting off a task you need to get done. Looking around is just as necessary even when you know there is no danger because it breaks the wandering mind habit and again creates that space in which you can consciously decide where your focus will be.
Remember this. Every time you successfully Change the Channel you are in the process of making an incredibly important, and powerful, new habit. Your new habit will keep you more in control of your thoughts, or focused on your chosen task.
© 2017 Douglas McKee