Stress is not a fact of life. Nor does it need to be overcome, combated or accepted.
Stress is a biological response that’s triggered when we perceive changing external environments are challenging our sense of security.
Symptoms include irritability, anger, overwhelm, frustration and demotivation. These are emotive feelings that we are all particularly poor at facing up to, processing and communicating. Long-term effects include weight gain, mood swings, memory loss and low libido.
Current stress management techniques fall into three broad categories:
Let’s unpack each of those.
Use stress to your advantage – propel you forward, improve your performance and hit deadlines.
Avoid stress by contemplating a less demanding job, reducing financial obligations and lowering your expectations.
Heal stress with vitamins, sleep, exercise, meditation, regular breaks and breathing exercises.
BUT use, avoid or heal are all solutions based on the assumption that stress is just a fact of life; an outcome of living in the 21st century.
Stress is the result of an outdated education system; one that continues to focus on teaching us what to think, and not the mechanics of how we think and why we think the things we do.
I’m not suggesting we scratch the current syllabus, but I am recommending we include a foundation course in how to be a human.
Our own personal instruction manual to understand the moving parts of why and how we think, feel and act.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1 states:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
We should but we don’t – because no one is teaching us how to go about this. No one is leading us to a path and showing us how to walk that path.
We need an agreed syllabus that instructs us how to train our brains to fulfil on the most basic of human rights.
We’re given dictionaries and rules of engagement for writing, speaking and understanding language. We’re taught algorithms; a set of instructions that can be used to create everything from recipes to nuclear power plants. And we’re taught formulas that can be applied to a variety of complex problems.
But we are not taught how to act as the human beings that we would personally like to be.
For humans to be more compassionate to others, they need to learn how to show compassion to themselves first.
If we truly value trust, authenticity and peace, we need to learn how to create it for ourselves before we can teach it to others.
If we want to remove friction and conflict with colleagues, friends and partners, we need to clean up the cause of our own conflict.
If you’d been given the Universal guide to being a human you’d know how to interrupt stress at the source.
It is not how we present to others that needs work, it’s how we present to ourselves. We’ll never know all the answers to life, but it’s important we learn how to ask ourselves – and others – the right questions.
This is where the universal guide to being human begins.