Beating the Stress Monster

 

           Mr. Webster says that the word stress is defined as “pressure; mental or emotional strain.” Most of us think of stress as an event that causes our adrenalin to spike, our anxiety level to rise, and our emotions to run-amok. In reality, stress is not an event—it’s our response to an event.

Being creatures of habit, we cling to routine. Any change in the status quo can bring about a stress response. Weddings and funerals, the birth of a baby, starting or ending a job, moving, going to a new school—what these stress inducing events have in common is “change.” Good or bad—the constant state of change and dealing with the excessive minutia of life can be overwhelming.

Stress Monster

Today’s lightning speed lifestyle doesn’t help. Technology is progressing at an incredible rate and the world is changing so fast that even a flux capacitor couldn’t handle the time-warp we’re in. Whether you are a freshman in high school dealing with tests, homework, book reports, and being shoved through the halls from class to class, or a newly published author swimming through the quagmire of promotion to put your debut novel on the Kindle Top 100 list—we are all moving at warp speed. The bottom line is that life is stressing us out. We aren’t equipped to deal with the speed at which the world is changing.

So what’s the answer, you ask?

            I might suggest being more organized, eating right, getting enough sleep, doing some yoga, and meditating—all helpful in maintaining balance and helping us cope with the stresses in our lives. But beyond that, I think the most helpful advice I’ve found is from the wisdom of Deepak Chopra. He says, “Detach from the outcome.” What does that mean? It means that when we attach expectations to an outcome (like passing a test or achieving bestseller status), we set in motion that stress response. Our instinctual fear of the unknown kicks in, adrenalin floods our system, and we are set on the emotional roller coaster that comes with the possibility of dashed expectations. With all the uncontrollable variables and constant motion of life, none of us can guarantee what the future will bring—no matter how much we plot and plan. Whether it’s a by-product of our society or self-imposed expectation, we all inherently fear the unknown and dread failure. It’s simply part of being human.

            My understanding of “detachment from the outcome” requires that I stay present in the moment. I need to take time to enjoy my successes when they come, learn from my failures, and detach from the expectation that an event will go exactly as I had planned. This is the only way I can overcome the stress monster. I know that this is easier said than done and I assure you, it takes daily practice.

 There was a time when this had become second nature to me. I knew to breathe, live, and have my being in the moment. I had created a lifestyle that was conducive to maintaining balance. But somewhere between my decision to self-publish and diving into the sea of details required to accomplish that task, I lost sight of my ability to stay peaceful amid chaos.

So now I’ll take a breath and get back on track with taking care of myself—a necessary part of staying strong enough to beat the stress monster. I’ll do my best to eat healthy, exercise, and sleep more. But most of all, I will get back to that philosophy of detachment from the outcome. Does that mean I won’t be checking on sales reports or making lists, setting goals, or working on getting that next book out? Nope. But I will remind myself daily that NOW is all I have and I can’t get it back once it’s gone, so worrying about the outcome of things that are beyond my control will never make me happy, healthy, or sane. I’ll remind myself to breathe as often as is necessary and I’ll attack my lists one thing–one moment at a time.

Stress monster, look out!

What do you do to beat the stress monster?

Gerri Brousseau was randomly chosen as the winner of a free e-book copy of Heaven is for Heroes. Thanks you Gerri for commenting on both my posts last week here on the Scribes site and over at Market or Die.

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8 thoughts on “Beating the Stress Monster”

  1. Ha! Is this the cousin of the Doubt Monster? Love the picture. Thanks for the sage advice. Only lately have I learned to distance myself from outcomes. I find it’s making my life a lot better. I don’t always remember, but I try!

  2. Great Casey! Awareness is the first step. Practice is the key. Every time you start stressing over something, ask yourself, “Can I fix this, change this or control it?” If the answer is “yes”, do something about it–don’t procrastinate (procrastination is food for the stress monster). If the answer is “no”, let it go. It’ll send that stress monster running for the hills:)

  3. I am a planner of all things. I actually love the whole organizational part of planning. And that includes anything to do with my writing. I’ve decided to take part in NaNoWriMo in November. I am planning to complete a 50,000 word novel, and I have already started the process of research and character development and plot planning…hey, plot planning! Maybe that’s why I like writing so much – I get to plan! :)

    Anyway, I have learned I may be able to plan really well, but I am not in control in any way shape or form. Even my stories don’t always end the way I invisioned them to in the beginning. But I am okay with that. In fact, I love the surprise I get when I see how things turn out.

    All I can do is the best planning I am capable of, be prepared for ANYTHING, and believe that God will make all things beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) That takes the weight off my shoulders to be the one to do it, and I get to sit back and be surprised.

  4. Hi PJ, Thank you Thank you … I just downloaded Heaven is for Heroes and I can’t wait to start it. I’m so excited to have been selected. Now … on to the monsters of life. I have found that monsters hate action. If you are facing the doubt monster, he will flee if you keep moving forward. If you face the stress monster, for me he will run for the hills if I take a walk or go to the gym. And, like Katy, when I am up against monsters I can’t deal with, I give it to a greater power who can handle anything. The important thing to remember when you do that is … once you give it to God … do not try to take it back. You will only make a mess of it. He is God and He knows what He’s doing. Now, having said that … I’m off to read Heaven is for Heroes. (thanks again PJ).

  5. The stress monster looms over me from time to time. Mostly when I am multitasking. I am a multitasker by nature. It is tough to give-it-up. So, what do I do? Say “no” as often as possible disappointing myself and sometimes others. But I enjoy all I have chosen to do, then I must delegate. Ever presence in my life is remembering I do not have a clone. The “no factor” is critical for me to form, shape and retain in my repertoire. Great post Paula, thanks.

  6. It took me a long time to learn the power of “NO”, Gail. I’ve been able to turn it into a positive by saying the words “Feel free”. As in feel free to do that. I’m otherwise engaged.

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