Happy, positive guy. That’s what I heard alot in my life when people described me. That was my outward appearance. And for the most part it was true. Most of my days are full of gratitude, joy and fulfillment.
But there was another part of me people couldn’t see…the stress inside. Everyday. Work stress. Life anxiety.
The silent killer…
7 People Die from Stress Every 2 Seconds – Richmond Hypnosis Center richmondhypnosiscenter.com/2013/04/12/sample-post-two/
Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death | Miami Herald
Not sure whether this is something we are born with or we develop as we grow up. My particular journey was not unique. As a child I was full of anxiety, uncertainty, some trauma and a great deal of dysfunction in my surroundings. Sounds like most of our childhood experiences:)
I wasn’t a driven kid. On the lazy side. Unmotivated. But I was happy for the most part despite some pretty crazy shit at home.
When I entered the work force for the first time, I noticed a shift though. My calm interior got disrupted pretty aggressively. My days and nights were full of stress, fear and anxiety. I became this intense guy I had never really known before. I became an extremely driven, focused person who was building a career based on my own insecurities as my motivating force. My drive wasn’t money per se, but success. The kind where I could just prove to others and to myself that I was better than the college dropout I actually was. Better than my low self-esteem narrative told me I was.
I really liked business and worked my ass off. But I was really miserable inside. I was wrecked by fear of failure, fear of not winning at everything I did and fear of simply EVERYTHING. I see now though that it’s what made me “successful”. My drive and success filled the void I had deep inside of my own sense of self-doubt and lack of self-worth.
I became “successful” through shere force. Not so much skill. Alot of hard work, some luck and a never-ever-never quit mentality. But I was not happy and absolutely not healthy.
I was physically sick alot. I never felt great. I didn’t sleep well. I had little patience for anyone and anything that was not part of my immediate need to perform professionally at the highest level. I was focused on my goals and overcoming my challenges everyday.
So this became me. And my life. Stress. Anxiety. Obsession. Constant self-induced pressure.
When I wasn’t working, the stress from work remained. I masked it pretty good, but it was always traveling with me. My mind just couldn’t shut off. “What if this happens?” “What if that happens?” “Don’t forget about this that and the other thing.” And on and on. All day and night. The life of a narcissistic, obsessed and paranoid businessperson.
And everyone I knew professionally was like me. We were all pretty miserable and messed up inside, but high performing and relentlessly driven on the outside.
To understand the impact stress has on the human condition just read this from The American Institute of Stress…
“There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In addition, stress can have direct effects on the skin (rashes, hives, atopic dermatitis), the gastrointestinal system (GERD, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis) and can contribute to insomnia and degenerative neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. In fact, it’s hard to think of any disease in which stress cannot play an aggravating role or any part of the body that is not affected by stress.”
After 30 years of living like this, I had enough. I left my company that I had built from scratch to start another, only this time one I swore it would be different because I was going to change my environment, the type of work I did and the people I worked with.
Guess what? Didn’t change shit!
I came to the hard truth that I WAS THE DAMN PROBLEM,NOT MY SURROUNDINGS!
So I went searching. Searching for answers. How do cure my stress. How to kill my anxiety. How to work hard, love what I do, be passionate about it and be healthy all the while.
It took alot of work and a lot of practice, but I found the answers I was looking for. It wasn’t one thing. It wasn’t one magic formula. It was ten things actually. And I practice them everyday, every night and in every situation.
While it seems that meditation, mindfulness and zen concepts are growing in popularity each day (which is a great thing), I do find that alot of the information and techniques out there are temporary in nature. Or not practical to take with you in every situation you face during the day either. I came to see alot of the popular techniques that are trending these days are like taking a vacation. They are great while you are there doing it, but once you get back to your reality, they leave you in seconds.
The sort-of “off the shelf” solutions and articles you read all look great on paper or for the time you are doing them, but for me, I needed practical techniques I could apply in every situation that normally triggered stress and anxiety inside of me.
So I eventually developed a practice for myself and a mental conditioning that gave me the ability to adopt specific solutions to EVERY stressful situation I faced and to eventually eliminate most of the stress in my life.
I practice Buddhism and one of the core philosophies of what we are taught is that our struggles are actually gifts given to us to help us grow as people. So I now see that my struggles with stress and anxiety were given to me so I could overcome them and then share with others.That’s the purposeful life I had actually always actually been seeking.
Here are the ten practices that I use to cure my stress that I learned mostly from Buddhism, Mindfulness and Zen Meditation…
Meditation: I meditate the first and last thing every single day.
Mindfulness: I learned to be present in every situation and when my mind wonders, I gently move those thoughts along and return to the present. I dont live in the past or the future anymore, just the here and now.
Yoga: Core to learning how to practice mindfulness, yoga is a wonderful tool to not only work on your breathing, but to understand how to let things pass through you.
Buddhism: My buddhist practice was probably had the single greatest influence on changing my thought patterns and narrative. I see the world through a different lense now and understand how Karma works, the importance of living in service of others and finding meaning in purpose in my daily life. I also see that each challenge I face is a wonderful opportunity to grow.
Surrender: Through much spiritual reading and studying, I practice surrender to something bigger than me and I accept all of my situations as part of a grander design.
Miracle Mornings: A great book on the importance of morning rituals. I totally embrace this 7 days a week.
No multitasking. Once I began to really practice mindfulness, I could see how destructive multitasking was. I know only focus on one thing at a time and really concentrate so much better on that “one thing”.
Investing in me: One of the most important things I do daily is take time to invest in myself via reading something spiritual, meaningful and thoughtful. Usually a podcast, blog or book. Everyday I read or listen to something for a minimum of 30 minutes to help “stretch” myself.
Gratitude: I begin and end every day with a few minutes of gratitude for all of the blessings in my life so I never take them for granted.
Laughter: As corny as it seems, I make it a point every day to laugh my ass off about something. Whether with my family, friends or work colleagues, finding time to not take things so seriously and a big belly laugh is really important to do everyday.
I know this seems like alot of work. It may be some work up front to really understand each technique and practice, but in fact, it’s not any extra time at all. I devote perhaps an hour or two a day to my practice. Rather than watch a TV show that only distracts me from my challenges, I personally prefer to invest in my mental health with this instead.
And what do you have to lose? Think about the alternative. I lived the alternative and I was miserable.
It works. Trust me. I am living proof!