We all want life to be easy, free of turmoil and difficulty. We want life to go the way we think it should go. In your mind you might have a picture that your life should always be peaceful. Yet quite often our lives are just the opposite. They aren’t easy. Life is messy. It’s filled with obstacles and challenges.
When life doesn’t go the way we imagined it to go we experience this as stress. Stress is the feeling, the inner perception that somehow the current of life is flowing against us. It’s like we’re trying to walk up stream or into a heavy wind.
For some people stress may just seem like a minor inconvenience. Other people have a different perception of stress. For them stress seems weighty, oppressive, or even debilitating.
Our perception of stress is individual. Yet, the demands of modern life- the constant stimulation of the phone, texts, and messages that never end: can heighten our feelings of being stressed out.
And everyone has to deal with stress. Even a stress reduction expert like myself has obstacles they have to overcome. Just last month, I felt like I wanted to pull out my hair because of all the things that seemed to be going wrong in my life.
How can a person better cope with the stress they feel? How can they learn to get a better handle on stress?
The first thing we have to acknowledge is that we can’t alter life’s currents. We can’t change the wind. All we can do is try to cope with life in the way it is presented to us. What’s important is to understand that it may take some time to get good at overcoming stress.
What do I mean by this? Well I mean that overcoming stress will take putting effort into learning some skills of stress reduction. We might think that it could just come naturally or would require innate talent to be able to learn how to deal with stress. New information suggests that this isn’t the case.
A new book by Malcom Gladwell (the author of the Tipping Point) titled, Outliers breaks into new territory when he talks about how success doesn’t occur in the way we are taught. He dispels the myth that it’s people who are just talented and gifted who are able to succeed in overcoming extreme challenges and become successful.
His research and observations suggest that what he calls the 10,000 hour rule is what is critical in achieving success in dealing with our problems. His research has shown that it frequently takes 10,000 hours of intense practice to really develop the skill necessary to achieve the results we crave.
He cites the achievement of Bill Gates, hockey players from the NHL, and other successful people who’ve reached to dramatic heights only after applying the 10,000 hour rule.
Now I’m not saying that you can’t overcome your stress without putting in 10,000 of stress reduction training. It would take years to do that, but what I am suggesting is if we want to reach a point where stress doesn’t make us feel overwhelmed or if we want to perform at a high level in the face of life’s challenges- that we’re going to have to put in some time in learning how to manage our stress.
I recently had a patient who came to see me in the office and I taught him a stress reduction technique. On a return visit six months later he said that the technique wasn’t working the way he wanted.
On close questioning, I found out that he was only practicing the technique when he was in an extremely stressful situation, and he wondered why it wasn’t working. I explained to him that if we want to perform at peak performance, we’re going to need to practice when the game isn’t on the line. You can’t expect a baseball player to never practice and then be asked to come in and hit in the bottom of the ninth with the bases full.
In my stress reduction program, 5 Simple Steps for Overcoming Stress Now, I cover the whole issue about spending the time to create mastery in overcoming stress. Being able to effectively reduce stress, particularly overwhelming stress, requires that we train our hearts everyday. My experience as a stress reduction expert has shown that our heart’s hold the key to stress reduction- but we need to train our hearts to be at more peace.
We can learn to manage, reduce, and even eliminate our stress but we need to learn techniques that have been proven to work.
And we need to think about getting good at overcoming stress.
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