I can’t

Q.

When will my life become simpler?

A.

It may or may not. Don’t hold your breath waiting for your life to go smoother. Instead, learn how to be better at handling the rough times.

Stress can be bad for you.

I just thought that I’d throw that out there in case someone reading this doesn’t already know it. Saying that stress can be bad for you feels like I’m saying that water is wet! Everybody already knows this. There are plenty of stress-reducing strategies, products, and can can'tprops that you can use to decorate your home. With all this help, it should be easy to reduce stress. Right? Well, actually no. If you’re like most people, you have tried (or are still trying) some of the stress reducing advice only to have limited success. As you try to feel the way they tell you to feel, you think, “I TRY BUT I JUST CAN’T”! I’m here to say that, YOU’RE RIGHT!

There are some things that can’t be done. I agree with you. (sort of) Some things are impossible. I can’t speak Russian either. However, I know that I’d be able to speak the language if I took the time to learn and practice. In the same way, you can learn how to reduce the stress in your life. When you understand how things work, why some things don’t work, and how to practice first on easier tasks, you won’t give up in frustration as often. Without knowing this, trying to reduce stress can bullshitbe exasperating. It’s like trying to play a game but without knowing the rules. Small wonder why many people give up or quickly conclude that stress reduction is bullshit. It’s idealistic and only dreamed up by people that are born into a sheltered life.

You can practice the most effective stress reduction without changing your schedule at all! While some of the common ones are activities that require a time slot such as a yoga class, you don’t need this. While I’m a believer in the benefits of yoga, it can be only onetired piece of the puzzle. It won’t ‘do it’ for you nor are you prevented from reducing stress by not doing yoga.

The point that I’m trying to make is, don’t worry if you can’t afford the time. Don’t fly off the handle and scream, MY STRESS PROBLEM IS DUE TO NOT HAVING ENOUGH TIME! NOW THEY WANT TO REDUCE MY TIME BY ATTENDING A YOGA CLASS? THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!! ARE THEY STONED OR JUST REALLY STUPID?
The best source of stress reduction is to learn from the stress that you encounter. This way, you better understand it. It helps you to reduce future stresses of a similar nature. You go through the stress anyway. This doesn’t take any extra time in your busy day. Why not reflect on it? Failing to try is like playing Monopoly but not being bothered to collect $200 each time you pass go! Why not collect it? It doesn’t make sense not to.

200 go

Well, actually it does. It’s not a simple as holding out your hand and someone dropping in $200 of Monopoly money into it. Often, people don’t collect it because:

  • They don’t know how.
  • During stress, the brain can switch to Simple Thinking Mode (STM). As the name implies it’s very simple in it’s thinking. It can feel like the brain is considering, “It’s a good thing that I had this bad experience so that I can learn from it”. However, part of the brain is outraged at this idea!

“THE ROUGH TIME IS THE ENEMY! IF YOU TRY TO LEARN FROM IT, YOU’RE JOINING SIDES WITH THE ENEMY! THAT’S TREASON!”

Imagine a shopping center caught fire! It’s catastrophic! Several people die and 10 million in damages! After the carnage, you ask how the fire started and get met with horrified looks. It was so tragic that I don’t even want to think about it! You then ask. Don’t you want to learn from it? THE FIRE KILLED MANY PEOPLE! IT WAS HORRIFIC! However, you still persist. Don’t you want to learn what went wrong so that you could prevent it from happening again? WHAT?!?! ARE YOU SAYING THAT IT’S A GOOD THING THAT WE HAD THE FIRE SO THAT WE COULD LEARN FROM IT?!?! GET AWAY FROM ME YOU SICK F#*K!!

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.

                                Margaret J. Wheatley

 

We learn from knowledge bumps.  When we were 8 years old, a skinned knee made us more skilled at bike riding. The lessons are still there. However, we can be so horrified at the experience that we refuse to learn from it. As we go through ‘The University of Hard Knocks’, we can run so fast after our course is completed that we don’t even bother to collect our certificate of completion! Take a relationship breakdown for example. We can take what we learned or continue making the same mistakes.

I’m NOT at all saying that it’s a good thing that something bad happened. I’ll say again. The best source of stress reduction is to learn from the stress that you encounter. This is most effective and it doesn’t take any extra time from your busy day. In fact, it will probably give you more time because it helps to improve your decision making and thus reduce your stress.

Reflecting on a bad experience can be very effective or hardly at all. What determines this is, how long and how deep that you keep questioning it. Some of the answers can be confronting and very uncomfortable.  For example the question, “Why do I keep hitting on financially hard times?”, may come up with the answer of an extravagant lifestyle or self-sabotage. (self-sabotage is very common in all aspects and not just financial ones)

Self-reflection can greatly reduce stress or hardly at all. (sorry to repeat) It all depends on how often you do it. It can be like learning to play the piano. If you practice for only one hour, your skills will sound like you spent only one-hour learning how to play. You’ll get out of it as much as you put in. Take a relationship breakdown for example. The cause of it is often determined so fast that the ability to learn is limited.

“THE REASON IS SIMPLE! HE/SHE LIED AND THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT!” 

Just like piano, there is no limit on the skill you can obtain. No matter how deep you self reflect, there is no bottom. Whenever you find the root cause, you’ll discover that if you go a little deeper you’ll learn about the cause of the root!

Eltoncolor

 

In the above mental picture, Elton John put it a lot of effort practicing. Now he takes to a piano like a duck to water. You can do that too! Self-reflecting will feel awkward at first. With enough practice, it’ll then come without any effort. We all know that practice improves skill. Remember that practicing on reflecting from your experience doesn’t require any additional time. You can have years of practice without altering your schedule at all! You can make self-reflecting part of your everyday life. You may become so good at stress reduction that you’ll wonder why other people don’t do it as well. After all, It’s like playing a game of Monopoly but not collecting $200 when you pass go!
The journey to happiness involves finding the courage to go down into ourselves and take responsibility for what’s there: all of it.

Richard Rohr

The quote above isn’t just for inspiration. It also talks about courage. Many people have different ideas of what courage is. I’ll tell you the type of courage that it implies.  To do so, I’ll refer to a movie called, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’.

A wrongfully convicted banker  (Tim Robbins) escapes from prison. He does this by crawling through a mile of sewage pipe to freedom.

Q. How can he do such a disgusting thing?

A. He spent many years in prison. The grotesque sewage pipe is nothing in comparison to the hardships that he faced. This is the type of courage that Richard Rohr is talking about. Looking deep inside ourselves and taking responsibility can be as unappealing as crawling through a sewage pipe. The deeper you look inside, the more unpleasant it can be.  The bottom line is, the worse time that you had, the stronger desire that you can develop to turn your life around.

Everybody wants their life to improve. Many try to improve it. The results vary.  Some are quite effective at it but some are dismal. However, when you become sick and tired of being sick and tired, you gain the courage to preserve.  You become strong enough and can look deep inside yourself so you can get maximum benefit from self-reflection. Your life takes on some real change when the pain of your life outweighs the pain of looking DEEP inside. You also develop a stronger willpower to make the changes.

I believe in Newton’s law. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. However, I think it applies in areas that he never thought of. I’m also a firm believer in ‘fire germination for the brain’. Many seeds in a forest will never germinate until a forest fire comes through. The ash makes great fertilizer and the seedlings don’t have to compete for light because the canopy is no longer there.

1800g061The brain also has this feature. There are some things that can’t be learned without going through a great deal of stress. One of the ailments of depression is that it can make you scatterbrained at times. I still get sessions of it! However, when people reach the point of being sick and tired enough, the stress can make them wise up.

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