Voltaire wisely noted, “Life is a shipwreck, but we must still sing in our lifeboats.” But Michael, my life is crazy, my boss drives me nuts, the kids are always sick, I can never make it to the gym and our finances are stressing me out … I don’t even see a lifeboat!”
When it comes to stress, there definitely is a lifeboat. You see, the Greek philosopher Epictetus was 100 percent right when he observed, “People aren’t disturbed by outside things and events, but by the views which they take of them.” There’s a lifeboat—and it’s right there behind your eyes, and between your ears.
Here’s the key, so repeat after me: The link is what you think. I’ll say it again: The link is what you think. Write it down in this box and look at it the next time you are in traffic, have a run-in with your boss, look at your bank account weigh yourself, or wake in the morning and wonder what the heck you did the night before. The link is what you think; it’s not the external event.
This box is your new secret sauce to living stress free, so I suggest you study it carefully. See the numbers? They mean something.
Position # 1 is filled with all of the situations, events, people, places, and events that actually happen to you in life.
Position # 2 is filled with your thoughts ABOUT those events. These thoughts lead directly to, and fully create, what’s in…
Position # 3 your feelings (some variant of anger, sadness and worry on the negative side of the emotional spectrum).
Position #4 is filled with your reactions/behaviors to the feelings you created about the event in position #1. If your feelings are stressed, anxious and worried, you won’t be able to deal well with the events that are calling on you in position #1.
We never go from an event to an emotion without thinking about the event first.
Here’s the important thing: unless and until you THINK ABOUT events, you won’t have any feelings or emotions about events. Do you think if someone shouts, “Boo,” while you are in a coma, you’d feel fear? No, you wouldn’t because you wouldn’t be thinking anything about that event.
So it is with stress. Hold onto your hat. Seat belts fastened? Read for the mind-blowing secret about stress? Here it is: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS STRESS UNLESS AND UNTIL YOU CREATE IT BY YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT EVENTS.
Many companies call on me to present stress management seminars to their employees. “No, I’m sorry I don’t do that.”
“But Michael you sure do, company X told us you just did a terrific program for them.” “Oh, yeah, you see, that’s wasn’t a stress management program, that was a stress prevention program.”
Why manage what you can prevent? Some people don’t get that. Now you do. Here are the 6 steps to do just that, prevent stress, instead of having to manage it:
Six Steps to Prevent Stress
1. S Smile more every day, especially at the first 10 people you see.
2. T Think rationally, accurately, logically, confidently and positively. That’s what position # 2 is all about. Think with fortitude, the right attitude, integrity, trust and humility (F.A.I.T.H.). Focus on the roses on your thorn bush, not the thorns on your rose bush.
3. R Relive the good with healthy relationships, the pleasant, and the favorable accomplishments in your life to help you avoid recounting the bad. The rear view mirror, always smaller than the windshield, is designed to help you do just that. Relationships and regular relaxation are critical to reliving the good.
4. E Eat right including such foods as asparagus, avocado, blueberries, warm milk, almonds, salmon, spinach and oatmeal (assuming you don’t have any allergies to these).
5. S Sweat more, but not the small stuff. Sweat through regular appropriate exercise for you, including high intensity interval cardio and full-body resistance training, Pilates, tai chi, and of course, don’t forget your mind—include meditation as a part of your regular full-body exercise. Don’t forget to add sleep, nature’s #1 restorative power—it’ll add the stress preventing serenity you are seeking.
6. S Savor your moments, your days, your time—these are gifts not to be ignored. Fill yourself with gratitude for every moment, no matter what happens TO you—if you will persist in thinking that everything happens FOR you, you will always look for the good and be filled with gratitude. Focus on what’s healthy by being aware and mindful, of events without predicting gloom and doom and without “awfulizing,” “horribilizing,” or “terriblizing.” Slow yourself down, take some deep breaths, ands see the beauty in your daily experiences and create relaxing moments in your life, no matter how filled your days are.
British singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini noted, “Where’d the days go, when all we did was play? And the stress that we were under wasn’t stress at all just a run and a jump into a harmless fall.” That’s the case in adult life too … harmless falls we believe are harmful. Perhaps we’re better off simply playing a whole lot more.