Posts

Dealing With Stress, Step 8: Acceptance

(This article is a part of a series; please start here)

Accepting one’s human, thus fallible, nature is hard for most people. Either because of the upbringing or because of acquired or innate perfectionism, it does not matter. The errors seem to bear a weight far greater than consequences would grant, usually.

Moreover, there seems to be a worldview that equates “error” to “personal flaw”, and as such any error seems to diminish the already frail sense of self-worth. Combine that with the over-the-top reactions of those around (how many times a small oversight was blown out of proportion by a boss or colleague? How many times small mishaps were used in office wars?), and errors sometimes take on the color of impending doom.

Now, take a break from the self-blame cycle and imagine that the very same thing, in the same circumstances, happened to one of your friends, and you have to talk to him.

How would you treat your friend?

Would you beat them over the head and make them grovel in penance? Or would you encourage them to go on, correct any consequences to the best of their abilities and learn from their mistakes?

I bet most answers would be the latter, not the former: encourage, support, learn, move on.

Why would you treat yourself differently?

Next time you get into hot water for something you did, stop beating yourself and imagine the same thing happened to one of your friends. And treat yourself as you would treat that friend. Strive, of course, to mitigate any negative results, apologize and correct where this is due, but stop before putting yourself through a court-martial again.

Compassion is not only for strangers; it is mainly for yourself. Not because you are selfish, but because you are your most important resource. Take care of that resource before it wears out.

B_txt_14

B_txt_10

 

 

 

By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside

Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more!  You can find out more about Catalin by clicking here

Dealing With Stress, Step 6 and 7: Focus Attention Elsewhere

(This article is a part of a series; please start here)

Stop ruminating. It is natural, but not always constructive. I’d dare to say it almost never proves useful. It is not to say you shouldn’t analyse what happened; this helps you learn and get better at things. But it doesn’t help in any way to replay the movie time and again, beating yourself up or inventing alternative scenarios.

In order to stop brooding and start building, turn your attention to the outside. Consciously establish your objective: “I will scan the street and take in as many details of the outside world as I can“. Focus on things you like. If you are passionate about colors, look for every shade, for every nuance you encounter. If you are into smells, remark as many different smells, aromas, flavors as you can, from the fleeting perfumes of the passers-by to the thick smell of restaurant kitchens to the sharp smell of fresh paint as you pass by a door being redecorated. Whatever you like, look for it actively.

At first, this probably won’t last long. Your mind wants you ruminating. That’s OK. Don’t fret, don’t judge yourself, don’t try too hard. Observe the return to inner scenarios, file the fact away and get your eyes and attention back outside. Repeat as necessary.

If at all possible, take yourself into the nature: a wood, a park, a field. Nature is a healer, more so than any other man-made environment. But if you can’t, the cityscape will do nicely, as long as you remember that the essence is not succeeding in this exercise, but the repetition itself. Right, the repetition. Just like at the gym: it is not the weight you’re lifting, but how many times you lift it, that shapes muscles.

Attention and focus are much like muscles: you have to work them to make them stronger.

And while you’re at it, combine it with Step 7: straighten up. Raise your forehead, look upon the world as you own it and soon you will be better. “Fake it till you make it” is not a lie. It takes effort, for sure. But it works.

If your mind plays tricks on you, it is only adequate for you to play tricks back on it. You should be the winner.

B_txt_14

B_txt_10

 

 

 

By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside

Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more!  You can find out more about Catalin by clicking here

Dealing With Stress, Step 5: Clinical Mode On

(This article is a part of a series; please start here)

Observing dispassionately allows control. Once you managed to take the previous step (dis-identifying Yourself from Mind) – or even at the same time – start observing yourself as you would an item in a museum.

Start by observing what happens inside your body. It is easier with the body, because it doesn’t play the identification trick. Scan your muscles, your gut, your heart, your face. Notice the tension in your arms and legs, notice the feeling of a solid rock in your belly, notice the fast-paced, shallow breathing, notice the sensation of heat in your cheeks.

Once you noticed those sensations, stop. Don’t take it further, don’t judge “I shouldn’t feel that, I shouldn’t be red-faced”. Just take the information in and file it without tagging it “good” or “bad”. Go back to scanning and do it as many times as you need to cool off.

After you get familiar with observing your body, you can take the next step and do the same with your mind. Observe what feelings it puts out. Name them as exactly as you can: “my mind is making me feel ashamed“, “my mind is making me feel furious“. It is good information. It is not something you should believe or act upon. If you can trace the source you’re even better off: “my mind makes me feel ashamed I made a mistake because in the first grade the teacher always made crude fun of me because I wasn’t talented at math“. Seeing the source is valuable, because it shows you that your mood has less to do with Now and more to do with The Past. The link is emotional, not rational.

If you have ever been in a negotiation with an used-cars salesman (or any slick, fast-talking sales guy), you know how you look at him working his number, recognize the tricks in his book and smile inwardly “You won’t catch me this time, dude!

The same goes with your mind. It won’t catch you again, because you will recognize its trick, see right through them and take appropriate action, as opposed to the hasty things It wants you to do.

“Response” is the name of the game. “Reaction” is a thing of the past.

Continue with steps 6 and 7 by clicking here
B_txt_14

 

 

 

 

By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside

Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more!  You can find out more about Catalin by clicking here

Dealing With Stress, Step 4: You Are Not Your Mood

(This article is a part of a series; please start here)

Your Mind and You are two different things. Any other part of your body hurting, you would say “my body part is hurting”. It is only with the mind that you say “I am hurting”.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a feeling of dread, only to scan the near future and find nothing to explain that? It happens to me in the morning, usually. This is one of the many tricks in the mind’s arsenal. What happens is we surrender to the mood without questioning its validity.

But a bad mood is just that: a transient state of the mind. Brains have a way of taking over that other organs don’t. You just have to identify that for what it is: a state of one organ. Important, powerful, useful, but an organ nonetheless.

You can start by dis-identifying Yourself from Mind. Instead of simply surrendering and saying “I am anxious / furious / stressed out” switch to naming your feeling: “I feel anxiety / fury / stress“. This trick helps putting some distance between The Whole You and whatever happens inside.

Next, start calling out the perpetrator: “My mind is making me feel anxiety / fury / stress“. If you can, take a step back mentally and “see” your mind playing its little tricks.

Stop identifying yourself with the workings of your mind. Take a step back. Cool down. It is the most direct way of replacing reaction with response.

Read part 5

 

B_txt_14

B_txt_10

 

 

 

By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside

Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more!  You can find out more about Catalin by clicking here

Dealing With Stress, Step 3: Don’t Fight Feelings

(This article is a part of a series; please start here)

Fighting the feeling will only enhance its grip. That is something adults almost never tell kids, when it comes to “proper emotional reaction”. At least where I am from, “boys don’t cry”. I’ve been told that many times; I’ve never been told how to fight tears (and, of course, the more I tried, the more they would trickle down my cheeks, red-hot with shame).

One doesn’t justify feelings. They are what they are: a natural, honest and strong reaction of the mind (and body) to an unpleasant set of circumstances. You wouldn’t even dream to justify breathing and explain metabolism. Why would you need to treat feelings differently?

That “good” feeling / “bad” feeling dichotomy is a purely social construct. “Chase away the nature, it will return at a gallop” say the French. And, as Nature would do, the harder you fight it the more it will return with a vengeance.

So, next time you feel something you “shouldn’t” feel, stop fighting it. If it is fear you feel, allow it; if it is anger you feel, say to yourself “This is fear that I feel; I will allow it to rise and go away without fighting it“. Name it, observe it and let it be. Eventually, it will go away.

That is not to say you should indulge in manifesting your every feeling. Having that feeling is one thing; acting on it is a different beast altogether. Do not allow yourself to act under the pressure. Bad moods alter the worldview, and consequences could be more than you bargained for.

If need be, you can explain: “I am feeling very nervous right now and it has nothing to do with you. I do not want to talk / explain / tell the story and I do not want to engage further because I don’t really know what I can do, so please let me be for now and I will come to you later“.

Please, do not make the mistake of taking it out on whomever stays in front of you at the moment. Even if you explain later that “it had nothing to do with you, I was just angry“, some things cannot be undone.

Feel your feelings. Name them, call them out, let them come and go without resisting. Where they’ve been, the landscape will clear out and refresh, more often than not.

Read part 4

Do you want to find out more? Get in touch with a consultant now or request a free demo!

B_txt_14

B_txt_10

 

 

 

By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside

Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more!  You can find out more about Catalin by clicking here

Dealing With Stress, Step 2: Feelings are natural

(This article is a part of a series; please start here)

Feelings are natural, they are not a flaw. We are wired to feel down, empty, nervous, anxious or furious. Don’t blame yourself.

When you’re happy, content or joyous you never second-guess your feelings, do you? Why would you do that when you’re down, adding a supplementary layer of negative? Aren’t they all the same: feelings?

It bugged me since I was a kid, hearing “You shouldn’t feel [down, unhappy, sad], think of all the kids out there who don’t have half of what you have!” I couldn’t point out why, but I was (at least) annoyed. It was like my feelings should have had some kind of universal scale of measurement and go through a global referendum, in order for said feelings to be “valid”.

Nature wired us for feeling emotions. “Bad” emotions are like “bad” breathing – they don’t exist. Fury, anger, sadness, desperation – all are natural. They are what they are and they make you feel what they make you feel. You cannot deny, choke or feint them – at least not forever. They are your emotions, and are natural (acting on them is another thing entirely…).

You don’t have to feel anything. What you feel is what you feel. Numbness is what should get you worried.

So, let feelings be. They are Mother Nature’s way of letting us know something isn’t quite right. Just like breaking the bulb of an alarm lamp does not make things right, denying feelings serves no purpose. Notice your feelings, give them names, get friendly with them. Just don’t act on them.

Read part 3

Do you want to find out more? Get in touch with a consultant now or request a free demo!

B_txt_14

B_txt_10

 

 

 

By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside

Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more!  You can find out more about Catalin by clicking here

Dealing With Stress, Step 1: You Are Not Alone

(This article is a part of a series; please start here)

You are not the only one in such a predicament: we all have rough patches and difficult moments. Some of us are better at hiding it, but on the inside we’re all the same colour.

Most of us, when in the throes of fate, feel we’re alone in our suffering. We may receive help and support from people who care for us, and we are grateful for that, but even this help-and-support come from someone who is not, right now, with us, in such a deep pain. More, we observe the world around us and see other enjoying things and feelings we so sorely lack.

a) For many, it’s about the image they put out: the deep truth is different in the overwhelming majority of cases. People will put out their best image and pour mountains of effort into safeguarding the social image (isn’t that what “inner power” is all about? Showing “strength” while bleeding inside?); and we see that image. The soul behind it is way more in pain and frazzled.

That realisation came to me during conversation with my spouse about some friends that seemed poised to do well; she casually said “The other day I heard her say the only thing she had left in common with her husband were the kids and the credits”.

You might think you’re alone. You might even feel loneliness. It is only natural; it is usually patently untrue. Take a moment to look around you closely. We all have our troubles. You have companions in your plight – only you do not know them. You don’t have to, just know they are there.

b) Preparation is everything: take care and assemble a Team You: people who know you, love you just the way you are and accept you with all your little quirks and peculiarities. Talk to them one by one or in a group setting.

Be as direct and clear as you can: “Friend / mom / pop / sibling, I’m approaching (or already crossing) a very rough patch in my life. I need all the love and support I can muster. I need you to support me now and show me later where I’ve done wrong. Would you do that?

This is not the time to be evasive and hope they’ll get it. Certainly, you’ll be in for some surprises. Many think “tough love” is the way (it is not, in many cases). But you’ll end up with a Team You ready to support you, ready to be your cheerleaders, a handy resource to have in dire times.

Have them know you value and cherish their support and lean on them in troubled times. That way, you’ll know you never walk alone.

Read part 2

Do you want to find out more? Get in touch with a consultant now or request a free demo!

B_txt_14

B_txt_10

 

 

 

By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside

Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more!  You can find out more about Catalin by clicking here

 

Dealing With Stress: A Step-By-Step How-To Guide (Overview)

Stressed out by that presentation you must deliver tomorrow? Can’t stand your obnoxious cubicle mate one more second? Boss is giving you grief for the sake of it and you’re dreading each morning? Well, you’re not alone. Neither are you powerless.

Here are some steps to take when stress, anxiety or any negative emotion, really, become overwhelming. They work for me, as they do for other individuals I know.

That said, two words of advice:

– although what I present you works, it is by no means the perfect way, the only way or The Way. We are all individuals and each one will eventually tweak, change and modify the method to find what suits best. Please take all that only as a start, a general guideline;

– ideally, you’d want to do all this right there and then. I know this is not always possible – we’re all human and, in the heat of the moment, it is hard to maintain composure and remember things we should do. We react as we are wired, mostly. In that case, do the exercise later – it is still hugely useful, if only as preparation for the next heated moments (they will come for sure!).

  1. You are not the only one in such a predicament: we all have rough patches and difficult moments. Some of us are better at hiding it, but on the inside we’re all the same color. That colleague that keeps his cool and turns robot-like in a crisis? Aloofness may be his way to keep the pain and anxiety from overwhelming him. That recently divorced mom of two, who gets out every night and feels wonderful now, that she’s single? It may well be that parties are her way of avoiding loneliness. They’re not really that tough; they’re just good at hiding it. You are not alone by any stretch. Remember that.
  2. Feelings are natural, they are not a flaw. We are wired to feel down, empty, nervous, anxious or furious. Don’t blame yourself; don’t let yourself tricked into buying in the trope of “you shouldn’t feel this way”. You feel what you feel. Let the feeling arise and go (and, as a side note, “should” is one of the most destructive words I’ve encountered – abandon it where it does harm!).
  3. Fighting the feeling will only enhance its grip. If you feel fear, feel it, it’s no shame. If what you feel is fury, let it be. Feelings only come to go away eventually. If you can, resolve to be a pipe for negative feelings, not a reservoir. Allow it to manifest, and then allow it to go away (refer to points 4 and 5 for that).
  4. You are not your mood. Generally speaking, you are not your brain. Do not identify with it. If you bump a toe on a bed post, your toe hurts, not the entirety of You. The same goes here: your brain oozes the mood, but you don’t have to drown in it. Simply observe your feelings, without judging them as “good” or “bad”. Replace “I am angry” with “I feel anger” or even with “My brain makes me feel anger“. Distance does cool down heated feelings.
  5. Switch to “Clinical Mode On”. “Clinical mode” is what I call when I observe what I feel without getting entangled, just like a wildlife biologist observes a lion hunting and killing an antelope. For sure, it is a tragedy for the antelope, and the scientist acknowledges and accepts that. He can even feel sad for the animal; but, in the end, he is just an outside observer keeping clear of the drama. In the same way, you can observe what is going on with you, but not get involved.
  6. Direct your attention away from the events that caused the feelings. Brooding is natural – and unhelpful. Once the situation is gone, let it be gone. Pay deliberate attention to the outside. Take a walk – if you can – and strive to consciously observe all and any details of the world. Colors of the items in a shop window? See how many different shades you can count. Benches with people resting? See if you can observe the shape and shade of each one or any differences between various benches. A cute young couple passing by? Maybe you can observe gestures and guess what they’re talking about. You will come back to brooding, eventually. That’s OK, we humans are prone to that. Observe that return as you would observe a flashing shop sign – “My brain keeps returning to brooding“. Just get your eyes and mind out again.
  7. Straighten up. That’s right, I’m not joking: straighten up your back and keep your forehead and eyes pointing forward. It’s a neat little psychological trick: physiology influences the mind. Walk like you are happy and you’ll feel less gloom-and-doom inside.
  8. Accept. “Yeah, right, I should just accept I made a mess”. Hey, I can hear your thoughts! Stop that! Seriously now, “accepting” does not mean “I don’t care”. It means “I’m human, I will make errors and that says nothing about me as long as I strive in good faith to correct the consequences to the best of my abilities“. We all have our inglorious moments. We’re not less because of that. Accept that truth of life and move on.

Of course, none of the above comes naturally and all of it takes effort. Some of it will not be your cup of tea, for sure. No problem, just try something else until you find your own, personal way to bootstrap yourself out of the hole. And, when you have discovered neat little tricks, maybe you’ll return here and share those trick. You might make many unknown lives a little bit better.

PS: when working with yourself (which is what I propose here), the hardest part isn’t what, it’s the how. We all know we should calm down; how in heaven do I do it when I’m in flames?

That is why I thought some ideas on the how of stress management might prove useful for some people.

Read part one

 

Do you want to find out more? Get in touch with a consultant now or request a free demo!

 

 

B_txt_14

 

 

 

B_txt_10

 

 

 

By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside

Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more