What we all do for a living is one of the major causes of stress for most of us. But do we know the exact breakdown of what causes our bodies to go directly into stress mode (a.k.a “fight or flight response”)? We should.
For years, I was chronically stressed and couldn’t figure out how to get some rest. There were nights when I would wake up shaking in a “stress frenzy” (that’s my medical definition), unable to sleep, because my body had been in the “fight or flight” state for too long. I can tell you from experience that while in stress mode, our rational thinking decreases and our fears increase. Before we realize what hit us, our days become filled with emergencies and deadlines.
If we can be fearless enough to face our current situation and desire real change, then we can pat ourselves on the back for taking this first—and usually hardest—step toward reversing what stresses our lives.
Start with asking yourself these five questions:
1) What am I thinking on a daily basis?
The importance of thought awareness cannot be emphasized enough. Most of us are too busy with the day-to-day routine to recognize what thought patterns we get stuck in.
It may help to write down your daily thoughts, concerns and fears in a journal or notepad. This way, you can easily look back and face where you are, and where you came from. I find it helpful to also write a positive, counteractive response next to or below the negative thoughts. Then begin speaking the positive statements out loud on a daily basis.
Personally, when I began taking proactive steps such as this, I was surprised at how many negative thoughts permeated my brain each day. It was mind-blowing, especially because I have always been an extremely optimistic and cheerful individual. Therefore, don’t assume you are always positive. Take the first step to write your true thoughts down. This will take some time and effort, in order to put away all the distractions (i.e. TV, cell phone, computer, radio/music, etc.) and focus on hearing your thoughts.
2) What (or who) is motivating my actions daily?
If we are honest with this question, many of us will discover how often we do things for others, because we feel forced. Many times, it is out of guilt or fear. This is especially true in many work environments, unfortunately. Obviously, you should do your job to the best of your ability, however, when too much work piles on and unrealistic expectations are abound, then it is time to reevaluate.
Negative motivations create a gradual stress increase. Once we begin to teach ourselves how to become more positively motivated, then we will experience stress decrease.
3) What are my inmost fears?
The answer may not come right away, but if we continue to monitor our thoughts daily, then our fears will come to the surface eventually. For some, it may be a fear of failing, and for someone else it could be fear of being alone. Being aware of our “fear thoughts” is also essential to overcoming high stress causes in our lives.
For example, I discovered my underlying fear for years was that I wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter what it was; I reacted to everything under the unconscious belief that I needed to overcompensate for whatever I lacked.
4) What is holding me back from doing the things I would love to do?
For some of us, we will automatically say “money”. However, we should think beyond the material. This question is usually closely related to an inner fear. Why not go for that awesome job opportunity with the new company? Perhaps fear of the unknown, as well as an inner dialogue of “not being smart or accomplished enough” took over.
For me, I thought I had to stick with the profession I chose to major in. I figured that I had experience in the field, studied it in college, and even scored the highest in that area in a career diagnostic test in high school. So what? The truth is that most Americans today change careers more than a few times, and thus operate in a myriad of job positions in their lifetime.
5) What do I believe to be true in my life right now?
What we believe to be true can be either a major motivator or hurdle to jump over in life. Despite whether the principle is really true or not, it is still our perception of reality. And perception wins over reality every time. In the workplace and at home, we need to focus on our positive beliefs and thoughts, denouncing negativity, in order to decrease stress, as well as become more productive and happy overall.