Destress for Success by Emma Abdul

Life is inherently chaotic and unpredictable. Humans, however, do not react well to
uncertainty. Some, but not all, will tend to adopt an attitude toward life that narrow down
what they experience so that they can reduce the possibility of negative events. This negative,
narrowing attitude often has its origins in early childhood. Psychologists theorized that these
behaviors highly stems from childhood traumas. Some children have little comfort or support
in facing a frightening world. They develop various psychological strategies to constrict what
they have to see and experience. This builds up elaborate defenses to keep out other
viewpoints. Thus, these children grow to become increasingly self-absorbed. In most situations,
they come to expect bad things to happen, and their goals in life revolve around anticipating
and neutralizing bad experiences to better control them. These attitudes have a self-sabotaging
dynamic, which many people relate to stress. Hence, making it difficult to see the role that their
actions play, how often are the instigators of the negative response. They only see people
persecuting them, or bad luck overwhelming them. Often times we hear people telling us that it
easy to manage stress, such as to better manage expectations, or to plan ahead. But it is most
likely that we tend to overlook the core of the issue, which truthfully is the attitude we possess.

As someone as overly ordered like me, I find myself overly planning and becoming too
rigid. So being told to plan ahead will most likely be counterproductive for me. I love planning
because I tell myself if I do this, I am in control of a situation and that I am able to anticipate all
kinds of obstacles in any situation I face. When in actuality, what I really fear is losing control of
a situation. So my immediate response is to limit what can possibly happen and to narrow the
world I deal with. Subsequently this limits where I go and what I’ll attempt. For instance, I’m a
ferocious perfectionist at work and tend to micromanage, but eventually I’m only sabotaging
myself because I try to keep on top of way too many things. All this stimulates unusual amounts of anxiety before the fact, which leads me to a lot of stress. What governed all of this turned
out to be how I was viewing myself and the world. In complete realization of my own negative
attitude, I knew this needed to change. The change started off with accepting this behavior, and
trying to revert my perfectionist tendencies into something positive. I thought to myself, I may
not have all the answers to these mental traps but if I learn to pour these tendencies into
something productive (like going to the gym, folding the pile of laundry I left beside my bed or
as simple as cooking a healthy meal), it gives a very calming effect. As long as you rein in your
perfectionistic tendencies, channeling your inner need to control into something positive is
absolutely possible. Deliberately, place yourself in the circumstances you most dread,
discovering your fears are grossly exaggerated. Therefore, understand that the first step to
distress is to accept and acknowledge the flaws within you, and turn the negative attitude into
something positive. With all this in mind, I try to slowly open myself to other people’s habits
and pace of doing things, instead of the opposite. I asked myself perhaps this is more
liberating? To place myself in the circumstances I most dread, to discover that my fears were
mostly exaggerated, to introduce abit of chaos into my overly ordered life. On whatever cycle
of feelings I experience tomorrow, here’s to continually search for new ideas and ways of
thinking, to being an adept explorer of life, and subsequently to master distress.

The next step in distressing is to understand that like everyone, you are not as rational as
you think you are. Especially with the rise of social media, it is normal to see people getting
worked up on viral feelings so easily. One will begin to consume so much energy in something
that seemed like what could immediately harm us, and not to other dangers that are more
abstract. When we swing this exuberance to fear, to gaining as much pleasure in being swept
up with anger (which most likely also leads to unnecessary stress), we can say we are giving in
to our primal nature of irrationality. Rationality is not a skill that everyone is born with but one
that is acquired through self-awareness, with training and practice. Without any rational
standard to guide your decisions, you never quite reach the goals you set. At any moment this
can change with a simple decision. Your first task is to look at those emotions that are continually infecting your ideas and decisions. Learn to question yourself: Why do I feel angry?
Do I feel resentment? Where does this incessant need for attention come from? Under such
scrutiny, your emotions will lose hold on you. Try to ask someone closest to you, their view of
you when you go through situations where you are not accustomed to or when in stress. If they
are truthful enough, the response will hurt. But understand this; acknowledge that flaw and
continually learn to improve it, so that you become less reactive or respond with hostility. This
would give one a clearer mind and rationality can sink in. Once this process is gradually
mastered, you will begin to think for yourself instead of reacting to what others give you.
Irrationality tends to narrow the mind, shifting the blame for the myriad of adversities rather
than solving a problem. With a calm spirit, you can entertain a wide range of options and
solutions. You will deliberate longer before acting and reassess your strategies. The voice will
become clearer and clearer. Just like an athlete continually getting stronger through training,
your mind become more flexible and resilient, less overcoming the sheer damage of stress.

The last step in de-stressing is to face an issue, rather than running away from it. If you
find yourself doing this or feeling this deep within, it is most likely that you are an avoidant
person. This means that it is possible that you will anticipate all kinds of obstacles and
difficulties in any situation you face. Avoidant people tend to see the world through the lens of
insecurities, generally related to doubts about their competence and intelligence. Perhaps as
children they were made to feel guilty and uncomfortable with any efforts to excel and stand
out from siblings; or they were made to feel bad about any kind of mistake or possible
misbehavior. What they came to dread most was judgment of their parents. I find this deep
within myself, everything I was doing was for the sake of other people. So as I got older, my
main goal in life is to avoid any kind of responsibility or challenge in which my own self-esteem
might be at stake and for which I can be judged. If I do not try too hard in life, I cannot fail or be
criticized. If you find yourself in the same loop, then you might find that you enact this strategy
by constantly seeking escape routes, conscious or unconsciously. Now lets refer this as being
avoidant people. Avoidant people will find a perfect reason for leaving a job early and changing careers, or breaking off a relationship. In the middle of some high-stakes project they will
suddenly develop an illness that will cause them to leave. They are prone to all kinds of
psychosomatic maladies. Or they become alcoholics, addicts of some sort, always falling off the
wagon at the right time but blaming this ‘disease’ they have, and their bad upbringing that
caused their addiction. If it weren’t for alcohol, they could’ve been a great entrepreneur, so
they say. Other strategies will include wasting time and starting too late on something, always
with some built-in excuse for why that happened. They then cannot be blamed for the
mediocre results. These types find it hard to commit to anything, for good reasons. If they
remained at a job or in a relationship, their flaws might become too apparent to others. Better
to slip away at the right moment and maintain illusion-to themselves and to others. Although
they are generally motivated by the great fear of failing and the judgments that ensue, they are
also secretly afraid of success-for with success come responsibilities and the need to live up to
them. Success might also trigger a fear, as it becomes overwhelming when extremely excelled
or being stood out. If you notice traces of this attitude in yourself, a good strategy is to take on
a project of even the smallest scale, taking it all the way to completion and embracing the
prospect of failure. If you fail, you have already cushioned the blow because you anticipated it,
and inevitably it will not hurt as much as you had imagined. Your self-esteem will rise because
you finally tried something and finished it. Once you diminish this fear, progress will be easy.
You will want to try again. If you succeed, all the better. Either way, it’s a win-win.

In dealing with stress, you must exercise de-stressing with being fully aware of yourself,
and to carry it out with caution. Our life inevitably involves obstacles, frustrations and pain.
How we handle such moments will play a large role in the development of our overall attitude.
For many, such difficult moments stimulate them to restrict what they see and experience. This
is no stranger to myself, but when you go through life avoiding any kind of adversity even if it
means never really challenging yourself, it will only boil down to repressing the self-repressed
negativity. The goal to de-stress is to move the opposite direction, to embrace the obstacles as learning experiences, like discovering yourself. In this way you embrace life itself, and
consciously or unconsciously being able to enjoy life at its fullest.

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