by Pamina Mullins
Pamina is based in Harare, Zimbabwe
Remember as a child how you questioned everything—to the point where your parents and teachers were tempted to duct tape your mouth? Why do I have to? Where are we going? How do you know that’s true? Why can’t we do it differently? If I do this, why does that happen? Why, why, why…?
And what we learn from the answers to these questions form our ‘map of life’. As we grow up, this unique map forms our “truth”. These “truths” shape everything we think, feel, say, want and do; how we solve problems and navigate life—without our being aware of it.
These beliefs about who we are and how life works are formed by a complex mixture of personal experiences, our culture, role models, what is imprinted on us when we’re young, the behavior of our peers, our personalities and what media influences we plug into. We are heavily influenced by what we’re validated and rewarded for by our families, community and culture.
Is your health important to you?
What about your career; where you live; the type of car you drive; who your friends are; what you wear; and where you go? Is your family, your social life or how financially secure you are important to you? Does challenge and adventure loom large in your life—or do you prefer the safety of a familiar environment and routines? Do you believe that life is meant to be happy and rewarding or a painful survival course? Do you live your life—or does it live you?
As adults, we often stop questioning why we feel the way we do?
When everything goes pear shaped and life overwhelms us, we’re often so busy feeling victimized and powerless that we blindly implement the same old strategies—while desperately hoping for a different outcome!
Staying in a job that’s killing you with boredom or driving you to burnout, hoping things will change, or believing you have no option—ever; or using the same financial strategies that got you into a hole to get you out. Going from one dissatisfactory relationship into another—changing only the name and the face. Living the same stressful lifestyle that is making you sick, ignoring your body’s warnings and hoping you’ll wake up one morning miraculously stress free.
Stress is a valuable internal email!
It’s a magnificent diagnostic tool for self discovery! This is what the stress mechanism was designed for—‘a life saving alarm system’. It’s why our puny, hairless, and not-always-so-bright species has survived this long! Stress is that voice that says a threat (to your wellbeing) has been detected!
It’s an invitation to ask ‘what is causing me to feel this way’?
But if we suppress or ignore it: delete it; mark it as unsolicited spam or stash it in the trash file, we kill the messenger before we’ve read the message. As the content is usually along the lines of battery low, switch to mains immediately or run anti virus scan or update belief software, this is not a smart reaction.
What happened to those fluid, flexible, constantly evolving mental maps of the world we had as children; that hunger to know why, and how to do it better? When did they solidify and become rigid assumptions we have no idea how to deviate from? How did our way of doing things become absolute, embedding themselves in our psyches like leeches, limiting our ability to ask important questions, explore and experiment with alternative ways in which to relate to the world?
It isn’t stress that’s the enemy—it’s not listening to the message that ‘internal email’ has come to deliver!
For instance, what media messages do you choose to plug into? Televisions are in almost every home on the planet; sometimes in every room of that home; on trains and planes, in offices, shops and stations, waiting rooms, hotels, restaurants and public transport. The problem with this ‘visual valium’ is that our primitive reptilian brain is incapable of distinguishing reality from fiction. So it reacts to television or internet content as though it were real.
There is nothing new about this. The messages are just more sophisticated, constant and insistent now. Our beliefs have always been formed by the hypnosis process—chanting, drumming, dancing, speeches or mantras; repetitive affirmations, prayers or visual images. It’s as old as mankind.
A trance state is induced by anything repetitive that neutralizes our ability to think rationally. It is used consciously or unconsciously by religion, parents, peers, educational systems, con men, club culture, cults, the marketing industry, intelligence agencies and politicians. We are exposed to these influences on a daily basis.
Depending on the content, it can help us learn more effectively, master a new language, relax, solve problems, overcome pain, trauma or destructive habits, increase self confidence and awareness, attain success and wealth or make friends.
But you know what a repetitive focus on looming crises, domination, exploitation, injustice, disease, atrocities, violence, tragedy and sensational melodrama is going to do, don’t you? Make you feel powerless. Cause you to live in a more or less constant state of fear.
Allowing this to happen is how ‘anxiety conditions’ develop.
The first step towards reclaiming your life is embracing those stressful feelings. Decode what your ‘internal emails’ have to say. Let them guide you towards solutions. Let them help you decide what messages and influences to tune into. If you let them, they will tell you what energizes and inspires you, and what drains and ‘disempowers you’.
The prevalence of the ‘negative impact of stress’ in our world is largely because we dismiss or suppress these important ‘guidance’ emails. Let them prompt you to start asking questions again—like you did when you were a child.
Are you fueling your body, mind and emotions as a priority—or running on empty? Is it your self value that needs adjusting? Are your relationships respectful, caring and supportive? Are you overwhelmed by life’s demands; or do you install personal boundaries, evaluate the content of your life and balance your energy expenditure with the rewards you receive?
Since the only thing we have any control over is ourselves—our actions, inactions or reactions, next time you feel ‘overwhelmed by life’s demands’ ask yourself:
- Why am I feeling stressed?
- What is this feeling trying to tell me?
- What can I change that will make me feel in control of my life again?
- And most importantly whose life is this anyway?
You are the CEO of your life. Like all positions of power, this one comes with responsibilities—as well as the ‘perks’ of power!
Corporate & Personal Stress Management Consultant, NLP Practitioner, Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Motivational Trainer.
Author of Why Me? Stress Free You! Unlock Your Emotion Code and contributing author to Erica Tucci’s Radiant Survivor and Modern-Day Miracles by Louise Hay and Friends.