Stress and control often go together. Applying control to reign in stress might work but is counter-productive in the long-run.
People react differently to different stressors, or stress triggers. There are everyday stressors, like the daily commute, or those that occur less often but regularly enough to always be at the back of our mind, e.g. paying bills.
Some stressors affect most people (e.g. death of a loved one, relationship issues, legal issues). Other stressors affect a smaller proportion of the population, such as phobias, which can cause a strong stress response. There are also developmental stressors as we hit certain stages of life: adolescence, and mid-life (crisis) to name a few.
The amount of stress that we experience about a situation depends on how comfortable we feel, which can depend on the support or resources we perceive to exist to us.
More specifically, it comes down to how much control we have – or perceive ourselves to have. If we feel helpless, stress levels will be higher.
Our Thoughts and Emotions are important
Stress extends beyond a situation into how we think and feel about that situation. Our thoughts and feelings are important; they shape our experiences. In the words of Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
Part of those thoughts and feelings are based on prior personal experiences, but they may also be based on other people’s experiences. For instance, your own perception of flying will be tainted if someone you trust has an unpleasant experience on a flight.
If we feel stressed about something, we might set up a system or process to mitigate or avoid that stress further down the line. Setting that up might in itself cause stress, but it’s a case of “the lesser of two evils” – i.e. we’ll go with the option that causes the least discomfort.
These systems increase our sense of control in order to deliver more predictable and more favourable results. The downside is that by limiting anticipated bad results, we limit unforeseen results that could actually be quite good (i.e. a pleasant surprise).
If we have set up a system earlier in life, very rarely do we check in to assess whether it’s still appropriate and serving us well. There is a possibility that it has outlived its usefulness and is actually hindering our progress.
Stephen Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about the Sphere of Concern. This is the (large) part of life that we are concerned about. A smaller part within the Sphere of Concern is the Sphere of Influence. We might be concerned about many things, but we’ll only be able to influence a small number of them. At its root, the word ‘influence’ implies flow. It’s fluid, and natural – very different from control.
If you use your resources and energy on something that you cannot control, it won’t affect the outcome, but will increase stress. Bring your awareness in from your Sphere of Concern and place it on your Sphere of Influence. In other words, do what you can, within reason, and let all other elements within Concern find their natural order.
Relaxing your level of control and lessening your focus on concerns might feel unnatural at first. If you experience resistance in the form of mind chatter, try exercises to quieten the mind. With a bit of practice, releasing control can be very empowering in the long-term. Hold the intention to flow naturally and effortlessly, like a stream.
Hypnotherapy is a great way to get rid of your old control systems that might be stopping you from reaching your potential, or to increase your sense of relaxation. Get in touch with me to find out more.