I often write about stress, and I help a lot of people to overcome it. So I’ve given much thought over the years, to what stress actually is.
We can’t see it, smell it or touch it…. What stresses you out might not bother me at all (and vice versa). It’s complicated! Because stress isn’t just one experience – it’s more of an umbrella term….
Sometimes, it’s frustrated: You’re stuck in a queue that’s just not moving, or you’re running late in a morning, and your kids just WILL NOT get ready. And the voice in your mind (and possibly the one coming out too) gets louder and louder as time ticks by, and you’re still not where you need to be.
That stress could be worry – perhaps money’s tight, or your health’s not 100%, and it keeps playing on your mind.
You might be feeling anxious about something you’d rather not have to do: Facing up to someone who’s upset you in the past; or a changing work role, taking you reluctantly into the unknown.
These are just a few of the experiences which we might call stress.
But though they seem very different, every one of them has something in common….. There’s a gap
Between What you Want, and How it Is
And when you’re stuck in between, trying to stretch across that gap, it’s uncomfortable….
So in the queue, you want to be moving forwards, but the world’s not co-operating. With the worries, you want to know that everything’s OK, but you don’t yet.
And the more of these gaps you have (the more things are bothering you), the more easily you’ll pick up others. Things which you’d normally breeze through can start to become an issue, and the stress can start to snowball.
So the first step is to take a step back, and look at some of those gaps. Be specific about what’s stressing you out – because even just breaking down that overload into some of its strands, can feel better.
And it might be that looking at it that way, one gap at a time, you start to see things differently. To notice what you can do, action you can take, to close some of those gaps, even a little. Because a smaller gap is less uncomfortable.
You might find yourself getting a little indignant. “I shouldn’t have to do that. It’s not my responsibility. Someone else should sort that out”. But it’s not someone else who’s feeling bad. Taking some action, even if you shouldn’t have to, can be liberating. It’s giving you back control – and that definitely feels better.
What gap will you start with?