Three key insights to help you move beyond stress
This article is written by local Life Coach Steve Chamberlain as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. If you’d like to find out more about Steve’s work you can visit www.stevechamberlain.co.uk or join an upcoming mindfulness and stress drop-in session at Deva Yoga on 6 June
Stress and anxiety. We’ve all experienced these states at some point in our lives, and some of us may be particularly struggling at this moment. We’re also likely to know friends, family members or work colleagues who grapple with these conditions on a regular basis, without knowing how to move beyond them. They can be debilitating and pervasive, affecting all areas of our lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Whilst there’s nothing we can do to take away the complexity or challenge of our modern world, it is possible for us to use our mind in a way that moves us beyond unhealthy stress, and anxiety. On the other side lies peace of mind, contentment and fulfilment; the states we’re all ultimately striving for. Let me explain why this is a field I am so passionate about by briefly sharing my story, before providing three key insights, plus a free audio programme, to help transform your understanding of stress and anxiety.
In my late teens and throughout my twenties I suffered with chronic and, at times, acute generalised anxiety disorder, which also triggered periods of depression. At times I was convinced that there was something ‘wrong’ with me and that these were conditions I would always struggle with, having seen my own mum suffer throughout her lifetime. However, my instinct told me there must be a path beyond these states. So, building upon my psychology degree, I read hundreds of books and downloaded countless audio programmes in a search for knowledge. What I came across was a series of insights that helped me to understand how our mind works and, crucially, how we are meant to use it. Having applied these insights over the past decade I now no longer experience unhealthy stress, anxiety or depression in my life, and instead understand that peace of mind, contentment and fulfilment are our natural states.
Three key insights
Here are three of the key insights that are central to moving beyond unhealthy stress and anxiety:
- The first insight is that you are not your mind. Your mind is a tool for you to use, and it is how you use it that determines your experience of life. Furthermore, counter to what is likely to have been your subjective experience until this point, your mind is also perfect* and has been serving you, even when the results may have been far from ideal
- The second insight is that the thoughts and beliefs you hold programme your mind. Therefore, it’s crucial that you’re very careful to consider which thoughts you buy into. For example, moments before stepping on-stage to deliver a speech, the belief ‘I’m terrible at public speaking and public speaking is scary’ will lead to a fundamentally different stress response than ‘I’m on the journey to learning how to be a great public speaker and this is a safe environment in which to practice.’ The former will lead to a fight/flight/freeze response, flooding your system with unhelpful adrenalin, while the latter will enable you to remain calm and focused. Note that the situation and your mind has stayed the same; only the programming has changed
- Your mind cannot not do something. This sentence is difficult to read precisely because it’s faulty programming. It’s the reason tightrope walkers choose not to say ‘Don’t look down’, because they know their mind won’t understand this instruction and will therefore look into the abyss. Having never been taught the importance of this insight, we understandably tell our minds to ‘stop stressing’ or ‘stop worrying’ when we notice our anxiety levels increasing, but as our mind doesn’t understand how not to do something, we inadvertently fuel our stress or worry. To overcome this, you can instead, programme your mind to focus on what is in your control or on solutions to the challenges at hand. This is positive programming, meaning your mind will serve you instantly and any stress or anxiety will simply drop away.
The crucial realisation that ties these three insights together is that stress and anxiety aren’t in the situation. They are experienced as a result of the thoughts and beliefs that we hold and the way that we use our mind in relation to the challenges at hand. This is the key to moving beyond these states and where our freedom lies.
If you would like to find out more about moving beyond the states of stress and anxiety, I will be running monthly mindfulness drop-in sessions at Deva Yoga in Chislehurst on the first Wednesday of each month. Mindfulness is the state of awareness that allows us to use our mind optimally, and the session on 6 June will focus exclusively on this subject.
If you are currently suffering with chronic or severe stress or anxiety, or any other debilitating mental health condition, I recommend speaking with your doctor. They will understand and be able to let you know about the support that’s available to you. If you are struggling to overcome something that has happened in your past, then seeing a therapist or counsellor may be the best route forward.
As a bonus gift to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, and to support you on your journey, please feel free to download or share this 90-minute stress release audio programme, which goes into the above insights in much greater depth.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I wish you all the best with your journey!
*With the notable exception of individuals who were either born with, or later suffered, some form of brain damage that inhibits brain function