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“What I no longer need to think about” (A.K.A. Dissolving Stress)

Chronic Stress. 


I just googled it. The statistics quoted about the percentage of people who experience chronic stress in the sites I looked at were variable but high. And getting higher. Also, the ability to find information and resources that ‘help’ has never been more available.


I’m going to be controversial here. Maybe ruffle some feathers. And I’m not going to let the thought of a few ruffled feathers, or the risk of anyone judging me get in my way of sharing what I’ve seen.


Everything I read about how to manage, deal with and cope with chronic stress that I saw on these sites is misguided. 


Wrong. 

Not working. 


If it were working, chronic stress would be getting lower, not higher in our population.

I’m not blaming anyone who is aiming to help people with chronic stress. I believe that every person and every organisation in this field has their heart in the right place, and is doing their best. There is no judgment from me here. I’m not qualified to judge.


I am qualified to share what I’ve seen for myself and what I’ve seen in working with people as a coach and corporate training consultant. The number of people I’ve talked to about their stresses, anxieties and insecurities is in the thousands over the past 25 years. 



My learnings and (unlearning) about chronic stress brought me to lead the most impacted group of people I’ve had the honour of spending time with last weekend in central London. They left with such huge realisations about themselves, their feelings, their minds and their lives that I know that they were changed forever.


In short, what my amazing co-host Jessie and I pointed out were some ‘home truths’ for all human beings:

  1. Feelings come from what we think in the moment (it’s a ‘right-now’ thought).

  2. Feelings often look like they are caused by things outside of us (other people or situations).

  3. Thought appears real to us, and the degree to which it looks real to us varies.

  4. Feelings do not need to be fixed, nor do we.

  5. Our emotional state is a brilliant indicator of how real things look to us (our ‘state of mind’), not an indicator of what in our world (people or things) need to change for me to feel ok.

  6. Left to its own accord, our minds settle and our state of mind rises.

  7. Underneath all the made-up thoughts and ideas I have, I am ok. Always.

  8. Nothing I think or feel is my fault, it’s human nature.

  9. As a result of this, ‘chronic stress’ is done. Over and out.

To me, each of these statements is a big deal. A real big deal. So big a deal it would take giant hands to deal the cards these things are written on.

Now, it took me years to see the truth of any one of these statements. Now, I can not unsee them. And now, I’m forever grateful.


Here’s the other side of it, and what we often think is the cause and solution to chronic stress

  1. How I feel is caused by any one or more of my job, my manager, my colleagues, my partner, my family, my finances, my past, my future.

  2. I’ll feel ok when these things are ok.

Or

  1. It’s all my fault.

  2. I’m broken and I need to be fixed.

  3. When I’m fixed I’ll feel ok.

These two models of life are what I’ve heard from people, more often than not. Me too, a handful of years ago. And we are all mistaken.


I must admit, laying it out like this in bullet point form seems clinical to me. And I’ve noticed that this ‘clinical’ approach seldom works for truth to smack us in the face and wake us up to a whole new life. From personal experience, it takes time and an open mind for one or all of these to be seen.


And they can. Because truth has a beautiful habit of showing itself to us. Time and time again. Given space, truth and our minds are bound to meet.

My job with individuals and groups is to do my best to stack the deck for the truth to be seen and realised. Share stories. Ask questions to get people to be reflective. Talk philosophically / big picture when it makes sense to do so, and less clinical than the bullet points I shared earlier on.


More simply, my ‘job’ is to show up and let truth come through me and whoever I’m working with. Partners in truth.


The proof is in the pudding. After 2 days of spending time pondering how we work as human beings, it was time to wrap up and consider what each of us had seen.

In this final hour together, we reflected on our own, on one question: “What do you no longer need to think about?”


We each took 20 minutes to ponder in the garden of the venue we were in, then came back to share. Each statement was profound. And beyond what they thought they had come for.


“I no longer need to think about being liked”

“I no longer need to think about my past”

“I no longer need to think about the world as a bad place”

“I no longer need to think about being a loser”

“I no longer need to think about getting life right”

“I no longer need to think about what I’m thinking about”

“I no longer need to think about finding love”

“I no longer need to think about any part of my life needing to work out how I want it to”

“I no longer need to think about making mistakes”

“I no longer need to think about what’s next”

“I no longer need to think about how well or how badly I’m doing”


As lovely as these words are, what struck us in listening to each other was how heartfelt and real the feeling was when the words were said.


I cried. We all did. Cathartic tears. Tears of relief. Tears of gratitude. 

Tears as a signal that the truth about all our worries had revealed themselves to us. As mirages. And in their place, how well we are made, exactly as we are, regardless of what we think and how we feel.

 

With love and gratitude, 

Wyn

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