Why you feel stressed and what to do about it (Part 2)

A few weeks ago I gave you Part 1 of this article around the subject of why we get stressed and what we can do to overcome it. 

I left you hanging a little bit when I got side-tracked talking about Unconscious Negativity (read more here!) but I'm back now with Part 2 to offer some practical tips on how to overcome stress. 

So back to it! 

One of the biggest complaints I hear anyone saying these days, entrepreneur or not, is.... 

there's not enough time

Not enough time to complete jobs, see friends... just generally get sh*t done. 

But if that's really the case, how is it with the same 24hrs some people manage to smash their to-do lists, hit the targets and achieve their goals while we're left floundering? 

 

I’m going to tell you where your time is going

We already learned in Part 1 where some of your time is disppearing: it’s lost when you are switching between tasks. That's because you're trying to multi-task.

If you didn't catch Part 1 then I suggest you head there now to see why multi-tasking isn't a thing! 

Want to know the other reason your time disappears?

You’re living in default mode

95 percent of brain activity is beyond our conscious awareness. Numerous cognitive neuroscientists have conducted studies that have revealed that only 5% of our cognitive activities (decisions, emotions, actions, behaviour) is conscious whereas the remaining 95% is generated in a non-conscious manner. [1]

Default mode has been linked with stress, anxiety and depression. Living in default mode is also associated with reduced cognitive performance, which basically means reduced work and study performance. Whatever it is you're doing, if you're stuck in default mode, you're making things worse. [2]

Why you feel stressed | The Flourishing Pantry

What is default mode?

Do you notice how often you do things on autopilot? Maybe... 

  • Brushing your teeth this morning? 
  • Driving your usual commute to work? 
  • Putting the kettle on to make a tea? 

We live a lot of our life in auto-pilot mode. Not engaging our brains or being present with what is happening around us.

Minutes, hours or days might seem to pass us by because we're not living in the here and now - we're just going through the motions and doing things instinctively, without truly thinking about them and paying attention. 

What's the solution?

Now I know what you’re all going to think when I say what I’m going to say next. I’m going to tell you that in order to gain back time:

You need to be mindful

But before you switch away, casting your hands up in the air at yet another thing to add to the to-do list, please let me explain how simple mindfulness can be and why you really need to stop ignoring it as the solution to your stress. And also how it is quick to do. 

 

First off, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is simply awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.

If you like the science-y stuff mindfulness is linked to thickening the prefrontal cortex. It's the area of the brain which helps us pay attention, to think, to reason and to plan. It’s where our short-term memory is located. It’s where the ability to control our emotions, improve self-awareness, impulse control.

And the thing is, it's not complicated.

You can be mindful right now. You can pause, take in your surroundings, notice your body, pay attention to your breath coming in and out, be aware if there's tension anywhere in your shoulders or your eyes or your back. You can stop and listen to the thoughts that are going through your mind. You can just, check in. 

See how easy that was?

Why you feel stressed | The Flourishing Pantry

Becoming truly mindful on a regular basis throughout our day is best achieved through consistent practice. Like any habit it has to be planned and tried over and over until it becomes something we do naturally.

I'm not saying you can just decide today "okay I'm going to be mindful" and it's switched on magically. It doesn't work like that. The 'quick' solution is giving meditation just 10 minutes of your time every day to train your brain to be more mindful for the rest of the day. It's a small amount of time to give for massive positive impacts. 

I am not an expert at mindfulness. I am not professing to always remembering in stressful situations to take that pause. I meditate for just 10 minutes a day, most days. I've studied it a little bit (I did this course). I'm not a guru. 

But I do believe that practicing meditation regularly has enabled me to take a pause a lot more often than I once did. I can now really observe what's happening, why I'm feeling stressed, or anxious, or angry, or triggered by something, rather than getting caught up in it. 

The other thing to say is, you're not going to be able to achieve a constant mindful presence. Perhaps that's the aim of monks and people hanging out in the Himalayas in caves. But it's not really achievable for you and me here in the real world with businesses to run. 

A lot of the time you will still do things in default. And that's okay. Mindfulness is just helping us to check in on a regular basis, particularly when we need it because we're getting overwhelmed. Mindfulness is the perfect way to just connect again with the body and stop our minds skipping away with us onto a "what if" scenario, rather than living in the "what is." 

For more on this read my blog post about mindfulness and the power it has to offer. At The Reset we also offered some simple tips on how to get started with meditation in this video

So many of the outcomes of mindfulness will reduce stress - can you afford not to give it a go?


This blog post is a little preview of the workshop I run at The Reset retreats all about time, organisation and stress. If you’re interested in learning more about this subject on a stunning weekend away with like-minded people, find out more on The Reset website.