Updated: Mar 10
There are lots of little things that we can do to understand ourselves better and help ourselves out when the stresses, pressures, and worries of a situation flare up. This week I want to begin to share with you the basic philosophies that are known to reduce your vulnerability to stress. In my research, I am interested in understanding what creates an emotion or stress response and what fuels it. At some points, we all go from cool, calm, and collected, to super stressed out. What causes that to happen and what can we do to keep the stress fire under control is the focus of today’s update.
One way of being effective at managing stress is to think like a Greek Philosopher. In fact, many modern-day tips and tools for coping with stress can be traced back to ancient times.
A stoic philosopher named Epictetus is famous in many psychological circles because, in the first century A.D., he said to his pupils.
“People are disturbed not by things, but by the views they take of them”
This simple observation has had a transformative impact on the lives of many people who until grasping its meaning were failing to cope with the pressures and stresses of life. It helps me on a regular basis stay in the coping zone. I hope it now can help you too.
The key element in this short phrase is the word disturbed. To experience stress that gets in the way of your basic goals for life and/or your core values qualifies as a disturbance in this case and the key strategy here is to ask yourself how are your thoughts about events, your perspective, views, and beliefs about events, contributing to the stress that you experience.
Some events that we live through can be challenging and difficult but generally, we have a tendency to add to our perceived challenge and increase the perceived level of difficulty in coping by thinking in counterproductive ways. A good example of this is that we can focus on and become stressed about elements of situations that are beyond our control. The point here is that between the external events and our stress levels, there is a choice to be made and the choice is this. You can think and act in a way that adds to you being stressed or you can think and act in a way that keeps you coping.
When events are adverse you have the choice of immediately or ultimately feeling healthily (self-helpingly) pressured or concerned or unhealthily (self-defeatingly) stressed and anxious. A simple way to begin to help yourself to make that choice is to slow down enough to be self-reflective, spotting the events that activate your stress and asking yourself if the way you are seeing that particular event is adding to your stress or keeping you coping. If you can see that your thinking or actions are adding to your stress in some way the challenge you then have is finding a way to see the situation differently and in a way that helps you cope in a realistic and helpful way.
A rule of thumb is to always challenge yourself to see more than one perspective. Do this and you’ll really help yourself out.
I hope you'll find time to give this a try.