Don’t Let Stress Control You!

We live in a world where each and every day, we are confronted with stressful situations. These circumstances often come to us from outside events that are not in our control. We are also a primary cause of stress in our lives. Stress also comes from inside of us. We are all presently living a new tense situation that induces stress, COVID-19 is here.

Our lifestyle constantly assaults us with negative information, negative actions, negative comments. The news paints a sombre view of our world. The people closest to us keep judging each and every comment, every move we make and every action we take. This world wind that is constantly swirling around us creates an element of stress. Sometimes stress is barely perceptible, and we barely notice it. But don’t be fooled, we let it creep inside of us when we don’t pay attention.

Other times, stress is so persistent and so present in our lives, our physiology starts change. We start to get sick more often, and when we do get sick, it lasts for longer periods of time. We start to get anxiety attacks. We’re afraid to step out the front door. We start to fear everything.

A stressful rational induces a sense of paranoia. Without you knowing it, the stress you feel each and every day can transform your judgment towards others and your perception of their behaviour. You become defensive. You think that everybody’s against you when they make a negative comment, or when they just try to help you.

We are all informed to a certain degree that stress in our daily lives can affect our biology. This influence over our bodies and our minds, if it’s not corrected over time, can trigger so many different diseases. Our bodies are not programmed and have not evolved to adapt to all these stressful situations that we get to live each and every day. We live these stressful conditions without paying any attention to the side effects.

If you go back millions of years, stress was not a daily occurrence. A stressful situation would happen when you’re roaming through a field trying to hunt dinner for your family and suddenly a tiger appears and starts to run after you. Well, that’s a stressful situation. Two things could happen. The tiger catches you and obviously the stress comes to an end or, you outsmart the predator and you’re able to run away. When the tiger disappears, the stressful situation would be over. This is called fight or flight. This condition is still deeply programmed in our subconscious. Back then, stress was just a small part of our daily living. It was also induced for a very short period of time.

Today, with everything happening around us and all the information we’re bombarded with, stress is omnipresent. We cannot run away as we did with the tiger. Today we are constantly in a fight or flight state. To counteract this, we have a choice, and that choice is how we react to stressful situations.

It has been proven that long-term exposure to stress can cause disease. Our biology isn’t designed to be in a perpetual stressful situation. When we constantly push ourselves into stress, over time, it will trigger auto-immune diseases. The long-term effect of stress on our bodies will down regulate our genes and start to create disease.

We’ve heard it so often and we hear it more and more. Stress is one of the top causes of illnesses today. How do we reduce or stop stress? We can start by looking at stress that comes from situations that are out of our control. You’re at the office, your team leader or your boss comes to you and starts to comment on your work. They say negative comments. Why would you stress for that? What can you do to change this? Nothing. It’s that person’s perception towards you and only his perception. How we react in those situations is what can create stress. If it happens to you and your first reaction is to become nervous, to induce self-doubt, to start to think negatively to comments that were given to you, anxiety will start to creep in and stress levels start to increase. It doesn’t end there. The next time you see that person in the office, your subconscious will trigger the emotions you originally had. And again, the cycle starts over. You press play in your mind, and you hear the same comments in your head. Nobody’s really in front of you saying anything to you. There is no tiger, it’s only you remembering a past situation. Anxiety creeps in, stress levels go up, and this becomes a daily occurrence. Putting so much attention on things that you have no control over creates stress and tricks your mind in thinking a predator is running after you. Look around you, do you see a threat? Why do we let these situations create stress in our life?

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5
If we want to reduce stress in our lives, we need to take a step back and create a space where nobody can touch us. That space is our minds. This retreat is a safe haven that you retire to when stressful situations happen. From that vantage point, we can objectively assess any situation and discover that things are not as bad as they seem. We can adjust our perception to uncontrolled events and turn off the pressure we place on ourselves.

After we start to implement this mindset, the tiger fades away and what is left is a peaceful mind and body. Without the effect of stress in our lives and not going into a fight or flight condition, our biology reverts to a balanced state. Our auto immune system goes back to regulating important functions and fight illnesses.

If the tiger appears again, take 15 minutes and close your eyes. Notice your breathing, feel your chest move with every breath. Slowly flow to a state of calm. Nothing can touch you there. It’s your personal playground. You make the rules. To remain calm in the face of chaos and stress is what we should always aim for.