Stress really is the worst. It reduces the quality of your life in every way. It makes you suffer in the short term and reduces the quantity and quality of your life in the long term.
If you’ve seen my work before, you’ll probably be familiar with the concept that the root cause of all ill health is stress or tension. Interestingly, this perspective, which is based on at least 5000 years of Taoist wisdom, is gaining more and more credibility in the western world. In fact, many of the top medics and scientists now put stress as the number one killer. This is particularly obvious and direct in the case of heart disease, which is still the main cause of death in many parts of the world.
What is stress?
For the sake of convenience, we can divide stress into two kinds: physical and psychological.
In the health world, we tend to focus mainly on the physical stresses, such as stimulants, toxins, trans-fats, sugar and dehydration. In the psychological world, we tend to focus on other people as the cause, for example difficult children, demanding bosses or inconsiderate drivers. These are all accurate and relevant and we should all do our best to minimise such stresses.
However, I have a potentially controversial perspective on stress for you to consider — the reason we’re so happy to focus on those outside stresses is because it’s comfortable.
How so? It allows us to stay in a victim position. It supports us in pointing the finger outside and saying “See, that’s the thing. That’s why I’m not living up to my full potential. It’s that! It’s them!”
As I say, sometimes these perspectives are valid and relevant but my question is — is this focus ultimately fulfilling? Is it helpful?
When we point the finger outside ourselves, where does that lead? I’d suggest it leads to a comfortable but disempowered state. We’re satisfied because we know why we’re stressed and unhappy.
How about an alternative? Here’s a realisation that has completely changed the quality of my life: over 90% of your stress is in your head.
So what do you do?
Simple. You get out of your head and start being present. I’ve been having great training about this recently both from my mentor Brendon Burchard and from Shazzie’s friend and VIP Room expert Sean Hamman — the power of simply being present, and not living in your head.
What is it to live in your head?
Can you hear yourself talking to yourself internally?
Are you picturing something?
Are remembering something?
Are you thinking about something that never happened?
Are you daydreaming?
Then you’re in your head.
Should you never be in your head?
That depends on your perspective. The eastern wisdom, which many people teach, is to aim to always be present ideally.
This is a challenge as it doesn’t allow you to achieve very much although it will massively reduce your stress. So how do you really grow and contribute and achieve, whilst being present and keep your stress down at the same time?
The trick is very simple.
Spend a small amount of time evaluating things as they are.
Spend a much larger amount of time coming up with strategies to get to where you want to go.
Spend even more time focusing on the results you actually want in your life.
Most importantly, spend the majority of your time being present. Being right here, right now, focused on the actual world around you.
Acting on this simple wisdom requires quite advanced brain functioning. Often traumatic experiences, or even mild but chronic continual stress, early on in life, stops optimal brain development from occurring. The parts of us required to control our focus, make decisions, and choose to be present — the prefrontal cortex, doesn’t develop properly. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that recent research on neuroplasticity proves unequivocally that there’s no such thing as too late where the brain is concerned. What this means is even if you are very used to feeling stressed and overwhelmed and even if you’re rarely present and empowered, it’s never too late. You can regrow, or grow for the first time, these brain connections. It’s just about using your brain differently. I’m bored of people just saying ‘be present’ with no guidance how to get there.