As you read the title of this blog you might well be wondering how on earth you can be expected to reduce your stress levels without actually doing anything.
Until a short while ago, I would have been with you there.
Like you, I have tried lots of tools and techniques to try to reduce stress.
Many of them have had some impact and I am grateful for the times when I felt these techniques kept me away from the brink of burning out.
But, more recently, I started looking at life in a different way.
Instead of looking at my problems and trying to fix them, I began to understand that the majority of what I was experiencing was being created by my thinking.
I had previously thought that what was happening to me, otherwise known as my circumstances, was creating stress but I now realise, that isn’t true.
So, this blog isn’t about looking at your stressors and finding ways to manage them.
This blog is about looking away from your stressors to a different way of looking at life; a different understanding of how the mind works.
A way of looking at life which is really useful in reducing stress.
The circumstance-feeling connection
I bet you can remember times in your life when a parent or carer has informed you (possibly in a shouty voice) that some aspect of your behaviour was ‘making them’ feel a particular way.
In addition, you only have to spend a short time on Facebook to see how people blame other peoples’ behaviour and outside circumstances for the way they are feeling.
Things like, ‘this person did this and I feel angry‘ and ‘the government made this decision and I feel furious’ are difficult to avoid on your news feed. All the time we are being told that circumstances create our feelings!
Your thoughts are creating 100% of your experience of life
But this just isn’t true!
This is just NOT how the mind works.
The bit, the majority of people are missing out is ‘thinking’.
Thinking is what connects our circumstances and experiences with our feelings.
It’s not the thing we are experiencing which creates our feelings, it’s the way we think about it.
There are a multitude of examples of this which we can see around us, but I love the one below using the dandelion as a way of seeing how different thinking creates a different experience of life.
The dandelion analogy
The dandelion is nothing other than a yellow flower with green leaves but look at how differently people can think and therefore feel about it.
If you are a gardener who loves to have a smooth green lawn, then you might have a distinct dislike or even hate dandelions.
You might feel angry when you see one appear in the middle of the lawn.
You might even think the dandelion is making you feel angry.
But, if you are a bee lover, you will know that the dandelion is the best spring food for the bee.
You might feel happy or even excited when you see a field of dandelions.
Despite all this thinking about the dandelion, it still remains a yellow flower with green leaves!
The wonderful thing about this understanding of how the mind works is that you don’t now need to do anything.
Just allow this understanding to settle into your mind and see what happens to your experience of life.
What you notice when you watch your thinking
I still love to meditate. I love to sit in silence and just notice my thinking.
I used to meditate with the aim of changing the way I experienced life; to make myself calmer.
Now I meditate because I love noticing the randomness of my thoughts and goodness are, they random.
They are so random that I often find myself smiling at my own thinking during meditation.
You cannot control which thoughts arrive
You have literally no control over what thought pops into your mind at any moment.
What you can control is how you then focus your attention.
For example, if a fearful or stressful thought appears in your mind, you can either climb on board the stress train and add some more stressful thinking or you can let that thought go in the safe and secure knowledge that another thought will be along in a moment.
All thoughts are as random as a pink elephant
The concept that thoughts are random which can be quite reassuring.
Let’s imagine that I suggest that you imagine a pink elephant.
So, even though you think I have lost the plot, you imagine a pink elephant (let’s face it, you cannot help yourself).
But, very quickly after that, you let go of the thought of a pink elephant and go on with your day.
The picture of a pink elephant that you created in your mind is random.
It will be unique to you and might differ if you think of a pink elephant again tomorrow.
But, the point of this is (and there is one beyond pink elephants I promise) that all your thoughts and all my thoughts and all of everyone’s thoughts are as random as your creation of a pink elephant.
Perhaps it might help to just allow that to settle into your mind for a minute!
Don’t do anything to unveil a stress-free you
What I am guiding you towards is the idea that you will have thoughts, you cannot stop that but that all your thoughts are random, and they are all made up by something which we cannot control.
Our stress increases when we believe those random thoughts to be true but once you realise the truth about your thoughts, a whole lot of stress just melts away.
There is nothing to do as a result of reading this blog
I am not going to recommend any techniques or tools for you to manipulate your thought.
There is nothing to do except acknowledge the truth of your made-up thinking;
To acknowledge that you are creating your feelings through your thinking and just settle into the knowledge that underneath all that thinking is a totally stress-free version of you;
The real you.
About the author:
Clare was a Headteacher when, in March 2015, she walked out of work and never went back.
During and after her recovery from burnout, Clare immersed herself in self-development, therapy, reading and learning in an attempt to ‘fix’ herself.
A year after burning out, she resigned from her 20-year career and retrained as a hypnotherapist. Since that time, Clare has been helping people overcome a range of issues.
She recently trained with The Coaching Masters and now works as a transformational coach.
She loves guiding stressed-out professionals on a unique journey to inner peace and innate wellbeing.
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