This month will mark three years since I moved back from Nigeria to the UK. As much as I remember Nigeria for all the great experience – having an event to attend every evening of the week, fun times with friends on the weekends, no Monday ever feeling like a Monday, I also remember the level of stress I and those around me put ourselves under almost daily over things we had no control over. The mad Lagos traffic for one, or people never keeping to appointments and sauntering three hours late with barely an apology.
Instead of letting go and letting life flow, we obsess over what we cannot change or control, often forgetting that life would be far more peaceful if we accept things we cannot change or assert our control on those we can.
Moving back to the UK and settling into a saner pace of life I have now found the zen place where I have accepted the things I cannot change and strive to change those I can control, I find day to day life is a lot more fun. This weekend, recalibrate, reenergise and take on the new week ahead with a new mindset of just worrying about the things you can control in a world where you can rarely control much else.
When stressed or upset, our first reaction is to fight the feeling rather than accept it, not realising the fighting leads to yet more anxiety. Here’s the easiest way to bust stress and find peace of mind: Acknowledge emotions. Whether it is anger, sadness, anxiety we feel, it is best to come to terms with that state of mind as opposed to fighting in and ride it out. That was, just like a surfer on the crest of a wave, you are in control.
Humans are actually quite one-dimensional in the sense that we choose one of two reactions when faced with a predicament: fight or flight. Fight if we are not feeling strong enough to tackle the situation at hand, fight if we are predisposed to take on the world without a second thought. Whichever you are more prone to, stress levels increase when you have a knee-jerk reaction to situations. Instead, step away from the situation, reassess your options and act instead of reacting.
Most stressful situations arise from lack of organisation and time management. We often tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time in the day. There is no bigger fallacy. Once you learn to plan ahead and plan well, your time is one of the easiest thing to control.
Much like our time, our day to day tasks are also under control, however much that may not seem the case on a manic Monday. Some like “eating the frog” first – i.e. getting the hardest task out of the day so the rest of the day goes smoothly – while others leave it till later in the day for when they have got their bearings right. Don’t let others dictate how you structure your tasks; only you know your biological clock and the ebb and flow of your energy, so pay attention to your peak times and plan your day accordingly. Once you take control of your day, you will see stress melt away.
I recall a time at work almost a decade ago when I had to tackle a toxic colleague while trying to get to grips with a new job, and the situation was getting increasingly distressing – until I had a heart-to-heart with another colleague who told me about NLP and ran me through some calming techniques. One effective method was ‘framing’ – imagining a stressful situation as a picture, then framing it in your mind and stepping away from the frame, almost imagining step by step how your perspective changes the more you remove yourself from the situation. What is overwhelming when you are right at the centre becomes more and more insignificant once you start distancing yourself mentally. Your perspective is the one thing you can take control of that will magically reduce your stress levels.
Much like ‘framing’ another method which proves effective when faced with difficult situations – either at home or at work – is to ask yourself a simple question: Will this matter a week, a month, a year from now? The chances are, the answer is often a resounding no. Then remains only one other question: Why worry now if in a week’s or a month’s time, this will be insignificant? Once you master these technique, you will have absolute control over your mind.
Have you heard the saying “I work out because punching people is frowned upon”? Truly, we have no control over challenging people or situations; and often once you start to feel like you are losing control, your body is the next to shut down. Have you had days when you feel almost petrified because of a stressful situation? The trick is to hit the court, the pool or the gym – whatever your choice of exercise, once you start sweating, and the endorphins kick in, you will immediately feel all the better for it. If controlling your body is within reach, with positive effects on controlling your mind, then get packing that gym kit already!