How To Deal With Stress
Feeling stuck in life?
Many of us at some point in our life feel stuck. Not because we are less gifted or hardworking than others, in fact, we may actually be just the opposite. Yet, despite all our best efforts and intentions there always seems to be something or somebody getting in our way, and the continual cycle of stress, frustration and anxiety perpetuates in our life.
Naively, we collect and accumulate thought patterns often without realizing it over the course of our lifetime. These thought patterns become stories we tell ourselves about the world around us and opinions we have formed about our experience and the people we have came in contact with, including ourselves.
When these stories and opinions are continually repeated, they turn into beliefs and conditioning that become a part of our thinking and for some of us, our identity (ego). While some of these beliefs may serve us well, many of them, unfortunately, also limit us and close our minds to things that do not fit into our perceived ideas and concepts. And these invisible boundaries limit not just our thinking but our behaviors as well. They are like booby traps that bound us within our own minds, and narrow our perspective every time we use them without questioning.
Below are 3 common mistakes most of us make when we are feeling stressed or anxious.
Being unaware of your thinking styles.
Below is a list of some unhelpful thinking styles that may be holding you back:
Mental Filter – When we notice only what the filter allows or wants us to notice, and we dismiss anything that doesn’t ‘fit’. Like looking through dark blinkers or ‘gloomy specs’, or only catching the negative stuff in our ‘kitchen strainers’ whilst anything more positive or realistic is dismissed.
Black and white thinking – Believing that something or someone can be only good or bad, right or wrong, rather than anything in-between or ‘shades of grey’.
Mind-Reading – Assuming we know what others are thinking (usually about us).
Judgements – Making evaluations or judgements about events, ourselves, others, or the world, rather than describing what we actually see and have evidence for.
Compare and despair -Seeing only the good and positive aspects in others, and getting upset when comparing ourselves negatively against them.
Mountains and Molehills – Exaggerating the risk of danger, or the negatives. Minimising the odds of how things are most likely to turn out, or minimising positives.
Emotional Reasoning – I feel bad so it must be bad! I feel anxious, so I must be in danger.
Critical self Putting ourselves down, self-criticism, blaming ourselves for events or situations that are
not (totally) our responsibility.
Do you recognise yourself in any of these thinking styles? Start becoming aware and observing your thoughts.
Ask yourself questions such as …‘is this really true, am I assuming. Is what I am thinking helpful?
What would be more of a balanced view?’
To quote Eckhart Tolle ‘’ What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity — the thinker. Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated.
Not Being Able To Accept ‘WHAT IS’.
Fighting against ‘what is’ is like rowing a boat upstream. So many of us can’t accept what happened in the past; can’t accept what someone said and did. Some of us find it hard to accept a situation we are in or how others feel towards us. And most of all, most of us find it hard to just accept ourselves as we are at this moment.
Not accepting is resisting ‘what is’. Only when you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your unhappiness and happiness.
Acceptance is not about being passive and just sitting back and doing nothing. As Eckhart Tolle says – ‘’the present moment is sometimes unacceptable, unpleasant, or awful. It is as it is. Observe how the mind labels it and how this labelling process, this continuous sitting in judgment, creates pain and unhappiness. By watching the mechanics of the mind, you step out of its resistance patterns, and you can then allow the present moment to be’.
In one of his video’s Eckhart Tolle with Oprah dissects the various aspects of stress, emphasizing that stress is caused by wanting something to be the way that it isn’t. This prompts Oprah to ask a critical question.
“How do you know if you’re supposed to accept [a stressful situation] or try to bring about change?”.
Tolle answers that we must determine if change is even possible — but before doing that, we must first accept the present exactly as it stands. “The basis for effective action is to come into an inner alignment with the ‘is-ness’ of this moment: This is how it is,” he says.
As an example, Tolle says to imagine that you are stuck in the mud. You may be angry about being stuck, or, he says, you may complain and adopt a victim mentality. “You become a victim in your own mind. ‘Why is this happening to me, always to me?'” he says. “Just look at the situation without labelling it: ‘This is where I am right now.'”
This acknowledgement, Tolle says, then gives way to enlightenment. “A greater intelligence arises because you become present with what is,” he explains.
Oprah presents another angle to help summarize Tolle’s point. “If you’re trying to resolve being stuck in the mud from that point of anger, you will always remain stuck in the mud,” she says. “I got that.”
Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.
The importance of acceptance and surrender helps you get into a place where you embrace the present moment as it is. Not because you no longer care about yourself or your life, but because you understand that by accepting and surrendering to ‘what is’, you find peace of mind. And from that peaceful state you can make better decisions and create a better life for yourself.
Whatever you are feeling or experiencing in this moment ‘accept it’. I always have an internal mantra going on in my head whenever I feel stress, fear, anxiety or I am trying to control what is out of my control. I just repeat to myself ‘it is what it is’
If you are struggling to accept what is, accept that you can’t accept ‘what is’!
Letting the ego run the show (Shadow-self)
We all carry an image of ourselves in our minds of who we are, what we are like, and what qualities we have. We form this sense of self through repeated experiences in the world with others and through self-reflection. In all cultures, developing a self-image is a normal part of socialization. Problems arise, however, when that self-image is negative, inaccurate, or even overly positive.
The ego is difficult to see, because it hides behind opinions that appear true – our attachment to descriptions of our identity. You can get a glimpse by noticing certain thoughts such as ‘I am so much better than you’ ‘They should be looking at me, not her’ ‘Oh I am so stupid’ ‘ Look how hard I am working making all these sacrifices’ . The easier way to spot the ego is by the trail of emotional reactions it leaves behind: Anger at a loved one, a need to be right, a feeling of insecurity in certain situations, feelings of jealousy that are unexplained, the need to impress someone, and so on. These emotions can be attributed to the false beliefs that comprise the ego and the ego feeds on drama.
The shadow refers to all aspects of yourself – including traits both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ – that you have rejected, denied, disowned and pushed out of awareness and into your unconscious. Carl Jung the famous psychologist describes the shadow as ‘the person you would rather not be’.
The shadow is developed in early childhood e.g. we are taught as children to be one way and not another and have little choice in this. Boys may be taught not to cry and act tough, girls not to be assertive. Any quality or trait that was consistently suppressed by your parents or caregivers, or suppressed by you in response to your caregivers will have been rejected by you in order to maintain a sense of connection to them. Furthermore, as you mould yourself to survive and manage your life situation during childhood, you will also reject aspects that are incompatible with the image that you have for yourself. This behaviour is good, this is bad. This is acceptable, this is not.
Have you had sudden feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment pop out of nowhere? Have you been vexed about someone’s words or actions for days? Do you notice people who criticize others and they do exactly the same thing (much easier to see it in someone else). Have you criticized someone for doing exactly what you have done? Have you read in the paper of a spiritual leader opposed to homosexuality, pornography and so on, to find that he/she had been caught in a compromising position doing the exact thing he/she has condemned – This is the shadow.
Because we created the shadow through repression and suppression, we come face-to-face with the destructive results of those acts. For example we may have learned to suppress our anger but we have a tantrum or display passive aggressive behaviour.
We project the shadow. All projections come from the shadow. Shadow projection is an unconscious act which causes us to see our own shadow parts as though they belong to other people; as a result, we can deny those elements within ourselves in order to preserve a particular self-image…. a self-image which then becomes imaginary (and usually self-righteous).
Some people fear exploring the shadow’s elements because they misguidedly believe that the elements which they notice must be acted out and accepted into the self-image; however, a natural urge to punch an abusive person, for example, can be hidden (acknowledged but not enacted), and it does not make us a “violent person.”
If you are shy your shadow is bold. If you are social awkward your shadow is gregarious. Our confidence might be in the shadow because we consider ourselves to be inadequate. Our leadership ability might be in the shadow, because we don’t want to assume responsibility and we may act this shadow side out by continually criticizing our boss, upward bullying etc and at times creating unnecessary drama in our work environment.
The qualities you dislike or admire the most about a person may be a characteristic of your own shadow self. Of course, you may resist this truth with all your might because you’re strongly invested in denying this part of yourself.
As long as we deny the existence of certain traits in ourselves, we continue to perpetuate the myth that others have something we don’t possess. When we admire someone, it is an opportunity to find yet another aspect of ourselves. We have to take back our positive projections as well as our negative projections. We have to remove the plugs we’ve attached to others, turn them around, and plug them back into ourselves. Until we are able to retrieve our projections it is impossible for us to see our full potential and experience the totality of who we really are (The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford (pp. 39-54).
Next time someone really irritates you or you have a need to gossip or criticise someone, ask yourself …’when have I behaved like that. Is there an aspect of myself that would like to behave like that?
I struggle with controlling people, because I like to be in control. Once I accepted this part of myself and embraced it, I could resist the need to be in control or get irritated by controlling people, and if the desire to compete with someone arises in me, I accept the feeling, change it or remove myself from the situation ( I don’t need the drama).