I read a report recently stating that almost 11 million days are lost each year because of “stress” – amounting to about £6.5 billion lost to the UK economy.
There are many different approaches that have emerged to try to tackle this – mindfulness, meditation, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), resilience courses, counselling, more physical exercise, social networks – as well as a whole range of prescribed medications.
It also seems there’s a lot more ‘self-medication’ going on in the form of alcohol abuse, over-eating and even binge-watching TV, in an attempt to ‘numb’ ourselves from what seems like a harsh reality.
And here’s the thing that strikes me about all this – none of these approaches seem to be HELPING that much!
This is anecdotal – but many of the senior leaders I talk to tell me they notice the problem is getting worse, rather than better.
I’m not saying that these approaches don’t help some of the people some of the time. I’m sure they do.
Neither am I ‘blaming’ anybody who is suffering from stress.
But you’d think with all of our collective understanding of psychology and physiology, and the endless studies that are published on Happiness, that we would have broken the back of it by now! Wouldn’t you?
Another study in 2015 showed that our workplaces are not necessarily becoming any MORE stressful – if you use the traditional markers like hours worked, threats to safety, how much self-determination and empowerment workers are allowed, and so on.
I’m also having many more students coming to me for help ‘dealing with’ the apparent enormous stress of university, and even school.
So what’s going on here?
What if we have it backwards? What if it’s all just an innocent misunderstanding?
More and more psychologists, therapists and those from all sorts of helping professions are beginning to wake up to the fact that we are only ever experiencing our thinking. Our experience (and that includes all of our feelings) are not coming from ‘out there’, but only ever from ‘in here’. This new understanding of the mind has enormous implications
So, what I’m saying is that the experience of stress is real, and often highly distressing and paralysing. But it’s not coming from the job, or your partner, or your kids, or your bank balance, or the traffic, (or Trump!) – even though it looks like it is. All that’s ever happening is that Thought is being projected on to the screen of your mind – and because we have the power of consciousness, we have the ability to bring it to life. And it looks, sounds and feels 100% real.
When our stress looks like it’s being caused by something in our circumstances, the natural human tendency is to want to control, fix and manage the outside world. This often results in more thinking, a lack of clarity and therefore even more stress!
When we understand this, it’s often a huge relief. We see that any turbulence in our experience is not coming from outside us.
And when we understand that the energy of thought is, by nature, transient and temporary – it becomes easier to just let it pass through us. This allows the mind to clear – like a reset button – and fresh new thinking to come through. And with new thinking, comes a different experience.
Our feelings ARE a really good guidance system that’s built into the system. Just not in the way most people believe. They are not a guidance system about what’s wrong with us, or how we need to fix the external world – or what action to take. Upset or revved-up feelings (including stress) are simply a sign that our thinking is temporarily off-whack.
Then we remember to push the reset button, and we naturally come back home to clarity, innate well-being and the resourcefulness to take action if we need to. Quite often, we see that we don’t need to do anything at all – because the ‘out-there’ situation now looks completely different. “Reality” has changed.
This is just one of the realisations that has proved a game changer for 100’s of my clients.