Hello and welcome back to The Joy Within’s podcast. This week, we’re talking about the 5 ways negative thoughts are secretly controlling your life, and if you missed the last episode you might want to go back and check that out first, since I go into more of an overview of this idea.
But, today I want to focus on the first type of negativity to look out for, which is stress. And, I actually include worry, anxiety, and overwhelm in this first category as well, because these are all just different versions of the same energy that causes stress.
Like all types of negativity, these different stress-thoughts can come in 1,000 different forms, and that’s variability is what makes them so challenging to uproot. They can be really intense, to the point of causing burnout or basically paralyzing you like a deer in headlights. Or, they can be really, really subtle, so subtle you might not even recognize them.
So, the first step towards stopping these thoughts is simply to become more aware of them. You have to identify when they’re happening to you, how often they come, and the different levels of how bad they can be.
The best way to do this is to get into the habit of becoming more present, to learn how to tune-in to the natural joy, the natural sense of calm and ease that is already within you.
There are a ton of ways to do this, and that’s exactly what we teach in Happiness University at The Joy Within, because once you find that inner energy, that inner stillness and sense of well-being, dealing with those thoughts of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm becomes much, much easier.
It’s like that great quote by Einstein about how you can never solve a problem at the same level as the problem itself. You always have to move to a new level, to come at it from a different angle, in order to find a solution that works.
You can’t beat stress by thinking about how stressed you are. You can’t beat overwhelm by thinking about the million things you have to do, and you will never stop worrying if you worry about the things you worry about. It just doesn’t work.
Instead, step back, find your center, find a moment of calm, and then you can take the next step.
The reason this works is because these stress-thoughts always – or, at least 99.9% of the time – come down to one hing, and one thing only. Stress and worry are always the result of believing that – at some future point in time , all will not be well with you.
Stress is your belief in a potential future state – a hypothetical state – and the belief that if that happens, you won’t be ok. And – and this is the kicker – your stress comes from bringing that potential future state into the present moment, so you experience that hypothetical future un-wellness now.
That future state might be 10 years form now, or it might be in the next 5 minutes. You might be stressed about a far-off retirement, or the boss calling you in to the next meeting. But it’s important to realize that the stress is never about what’s happening now. You make it now by feeling stressed about it. And that’s why a centering process will work, because as you center into the present, you become calmer and you can think more objectively, which then empowers you to solve the problem — if there is actually a problem – from a higher level.
So when you center, you will either realize you were stressed about something that’s not actually that big a deal, or you will gain the frame of reference you need to take the right steps forward. Do you see how this works?
Notice how I didn’t say you should ignore the problem. You can’t just meditate and pretend everything’s perfect. You might have very real reasons to be worried, but your stress, in this moment, will not help you find a solution. This is as true whether you’re facing a major catastrophe or a little, minor annoyance.
To give you an example of how this plays out, I was working with a client recently who was going through a rough patch at work. She was being trained in a new role and every Friday she would have a meeting with her boss. Every week her boss would point out the mistakes she was making. So, she started to slide into a negative spiral – very gradually. She started to focus more and more on her mistakes and started to worry about what her boss would say.
The more she worried, the more she became choked up and the more mistakes she’d make. All week, she would feel tense, dreading her Friday meeting. Some of her worried were justified, others weren’t. But, regardless of how that meeting might go – even if it were horrible – the real problem was how she brought that negative anticipation forward into her week. She lived the worst-case scenario all day, every day.
If you’ve ever experienced anything like this you know that stress can be paralyzing. So, we had to break that spiral. And, when we did, we could reclaim the present moment, one step at a time. Only then could her work improve. She started to regain her confidence and rekindle the usually positive relationship she had with her boss and her coworkers. But she had to stop living in fear of a potential future state – in fear of that weekly meeting – first.
So, I hope that’s helpful. If that’s you – if you feel like you’re stuck in a pattern of stress, worry, or overwhelm, The Joy Within can help. Just head over to thejoywithin.org and sign up for Happiness University and we’ll walk you step by step through a simple process to reclaim your center and eliminate that stress and negativity from your life.
And – in closing – I want to leave you with one last thing. You gotta catch it early. Often, these negative thoughts don’t seem that bad at first, but the problem is – if you don’t stop them – they will spiral. Stress begets more stress. Worry begets more worry.
The best way to deal with it is to get out in front of it – to head it off before you enter that negative spiral. So, start to pay attention to those little thoguhts when they crop up. Start to notice the impact they have. Then, take action to course correct when you need to.
So, that’s it for today and don’t forget: you are only ever one thought away from becoming the calm, confident, and happy person you deserve to be.