by Alex Mathews
I’ve struggled with stress and anxiety for over a decade.
I’ve undergone a transformation thanks to developing an awareness around what does NOT work. I’ve helped hundreds do the same.
Here are some innocent ways we can make things worse:
1. Believing you need ‘fixing.’
When we entertain the idea that we need to ‘work’ towards getting better, guess what?
We inadvertently emphasise the idea that there is something wrong with us.
This is the very thing that keeps our attention on the problem, and reinforces our suffering.
2. Thinking worrying is a valid strategy.
People ask me how to worry less all the time. But they continue to worry — even if they know it adds to their stress.
But here’s the thing: the only reason we worry is because some part of us believes that worry serves a positive purpose. It does not.
It makes us feel like crap and decreases our performance.
Let go of the idea that worry helps, and you’ll experience more peace and more effortless wisdom.
3. Doing several things at once.
A lot of us make our lives 10x harder because we’re either trying to do several things at once, or we’re thinking about several things at the same time.
Both create overwhelm and are unnecessary.
All we have is one thing at a time. That is all we can do.
Seeing this and accepting it brings relief, enjoyment in our work, and improved performance.
4. Avoiding fear.
It’s easy to think that if we feel scared, this is a sign to avoid the thing that caused this feeling.
Makes sense — the only issue is that we end up living a comfortable life devoid of risk.
This becomes more dangerous in the long run because we don’t confront fear and continually give strength to the illusion that we are at the mercy of a brutal reality. This weakens you, mentally and physically, and makes you anxious.
Confront your fears and practice the things that make you nervous.
This will reduce your feelings of fear and give you an unfair advantage.
5. Believing in the lie of ‘self-esteem.’
If we have ‘self-esteem’ that needs protecting, we are going to tighten up in the face of potentially losing it. Right?
For example, I was anxious around groups of people because I believed that if they criticised me, my self-esteem would diminish.
Now I know that self-esteem is made up in the mind, and no one can hurt me.
Our gift of visualisation has brought with it many opportunities, like planning a path forward, and remembering past mistakes so we can avoid them.
It’s a double-edged sword, however, because spending any time in the future or the past destroys our potential in the present.
There are no problems right here right now.
The present is pure consciousness and we can return here whenever we need refuge.
7. Energy-draining habits.
I always encourage my clients to do an ‘energy audit’ when we start working together.
This means listing out all the things that drain their energy and those that boost it.
Many of us fill our days with energy drains that contribute to an imbalanced body.
When we’re out of balance, we’re more likely to have anxiety and stress.
Bring awareness to where your energy leaks, and address the low-hanging fruit first.
8. Misunderstanding the truth of ‘anxiety.’
Many things contribute to anxiety and stress, but nothing can help at the fundamental level if we don’t understand how it actually works.
Most people don’t.
Most of us think our stress is caused by external events, people and environments. It is not.
It is caused internally at the level of thoughts.
We feel our thoughts.
We perceive someone being ‘annoying,’ think it, and feel the annoying thought in the body as stress.
Understanding this changes our entire experience because we see the futility in hanging on to unhelpful thoughts.
This is how to be free.
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