Managing stress is unfortunately not something we are taught in school, by our employers, or by society. Stress and being overly busy is oftentimes glorified by society – you’ll even hear people almost bragging about how busy they are. When you ask someone how they are doing, how often do you hear them say “really busy”? This is truly just another way of saying they are stressed, and it’s a sad reality that this is the case for so many people. Managing stress means that we need to become aware of what is causing our stress and how we can shift our perspective, as well as becoming committed to making true lifestyle changes. We are not meant to live in a stressed out state 24/7 – this leads to illness and disease, and it’s not truly enjoying life!
Thoughts Create Feelings
Our thoughts create our feelings. This is something I have discussed in depth in previous articles (see Becoming Aware of our Emotional Stress & Fear). To reiterate briefly though, there is a great acronym that I use to explain exactly how our thoughts create our feelings: CTFAR. This model of understanding allows you to see situations from a zoomed-out perspective.
C = Circumstance
T = Thought
F = Feeling
A = Action
R = Result
This acronym shows the progression in order (starting with Circumstance) that we go through when we start to put meaning behind a circumstance or situation. Whatever circumstance or situation is happening in your life is truly neutral – meaning it is not good or bad, happy or sad, stressful or not, etc. We as humans are the ones who attach meanings behind it.
Behind almost every single situation that we label as “stressful”, there are some deep-rooted beliefs that we have:
- Our subconscious mind is programmed with things that we learned while we were growing up. This programming is based on memories that we hold onto, including judgements, beliefs, opinions, and habits that were formed at a very young age. We believe these are all true and have navigated life with these in our subconscious mind, which is responsible for 95% of our thoughts. It creates a filter through which we view our life and the world.
- Input from everyone around us, including family, friends, coworkers, society, etc. We are constantly worried about being judged by others, so we make decisions based on what will be accepted by those that we care about and their opinion and view of us.
- Self-Talk that wasn’t actually created by ourselves, someone else’s opinions and judgements are echoing in our minds.
- Underlying fears of something going wrong or the fear of being judged. Fear of failure or even fear of success. We also take on fears that others may be projecting on us.
- Triggers from past experiences, including trauma and belief systems that we have adopted that we didn’t necessarily choose.
When we are able to take a step back and remember that our thoughts created the feelings of stress, we can begin to identify where those thoughts came from and start to change them to thoughts we choose to have. This equips you with the tools necessary to change what you feel in life. If you feel negative all the time, you’re likely having consistent negative trains of thoughts. Sciences such as neuroplasticity, quantum physics, and epigenetics explain that it is possible to rewire this. Choosing positive trains of thoughts will start to make you feel better, allowing you to enjoy life more and live a more passionate and fulfilled life. It’s also particularly noteworthy that negative thoughts for sustained periods of time will leave the body prone to illness, while positive thoughts and feelings of gratitude generally have the opposite effect – creating abundant health and feelings of love, happiness, gratitude, and joy.
Feel Our Feelings
Now that we know that the thoughts we have are creating feelings of stress and fear, we can also start to identify where those thoughts and beliefs came from:
- The time our teacher told us we wouldn’t be successful in our career.
- The time our boss called us incompetent
- The time our parents were disappointed in us for failing something in school
- Any other experience that your subconscious mind has held onto and formed a belief in our subconscious mind.
The mind tends to fragment and compartmentalize things, but our body holds onto those feelings and they show up again and again when we feel triggered through similar situations, because we never truly worked through these feelings and let go of them. Very often, people are actually subconsciously trying to validate these feelings, thoughts, judgements, and opinions. For example, if you subconsciously believe that money will always stress you out and you will always be broke, you’ll likely experience more situations in your life that give you the opportunity to say, “See, I’m broke, I can’t afford anything!”.
Emotions are meant to be felt and then released. We are not supposed to avoid these feelings of stress and fear, but rather we need to feel them and release them: through movement, screaming into a pillow, a good cry, journaling, getting outside in nature, etc. and then let go of the emotion so that we do not continue to hold onto this negativity in both our minds and our bodies. Holding onto the negativity will likely manifest itself in negative physical symptoms.
While talk therapy can be helpful sometimes, too much of it – or venting about a situation, can actually cause the feelings of stress and fear to linger because as we talk about it, we are continuing to relive the experience, thus putting our bodies back into fight or flight mode. We put ourselves in a cycle and have not released the feelings. If you need to talk about it once, while it is still fresh in your mind, that is okay – but once your conversation is over, it’s time to release the feelings and emotions. Don’t get stuck in a cycle of venting to everyone you know. This will just continue to make yourself relive the negative emotions multiple times. Let it go!
It’s important to ask yourself: What am I afraid of and why? Am I trying to predict my future or be in control of something that I cannot control? Am I living in the present moment?
Rewiring Our Minds
You are not your thoughts. We are meant to observe our thoughts. We have 65-70K thoughts a day, and they are often the same thoughts repeated over and over, day after day.
If we let our mind run wild and believe every thought that we have, then this cycle does not change. We have to become intentional with our thoughts by writing down the feelings you want to feel and writing down the things you want to think about, such as your goals, your success, your happiness, etc.
I dive deep into the idea of being intentional with your thoughts, visualizing your dream life, and designing your life in my FREE course, How to Visualize & Build Your Dream Life.
Science has proven that neuroplasticity shows that we can rewire our minds. Your current belief system is most likely not one that you chose, you were given it from the way that you grew up. Now, it is your turn to put in the work to choose the beliefs that you want to have about yourself and your life, and this starts by being intentional with what you want to focus on.
The trauma that you experienced growing up isn’t necessarily yours to take responsibility for. The programming that you navigate your life with, however, is your responsibility. Learn about yourself, put in the work, and spend the time you need to heal and create a beautiful life that you enjoy.
You are in charge of managing your mind, not the other way around. If your mind controls you, you will be a slave to your programming, negative cycles, pessimistic and toxic circumstances, experiences, and people. That’s not meant to sound so ominous, it’s meant to convey the message that the factors at play in the modern world almost always program people to be negative – our society has a predisposition to pessimism, which impacts all of us on both a mental & physical level. Thinking positively and choosing more for yourself and for your life requires conscious, consistent intention.
Understanding how our thoughts create our feelings, how our thought programming contributes to stress, feeling and letting go of our emotions, and rewiring our mind will help you to start managing your stress. In addition to managing your mind and your thoughts to prevent stress, there are other tools such as:
- Meditation and breathwork – Just 1-2 minutes of breathwork can get the body started in returning back to homeostasis and restoring immune function.
- Understanding your triggers
- Adaptogenic herbs & foods
- And so much more.
Sign up for my new course, A Holistic Approach to Managing Stress, to dive so much deeper into the science behind stress, fear, and how to shift your perspective and truly manage your stress holistically. The course is an 8-week program that also includes various homework exercises for you to take actionable steps to change your relationship with stress.