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Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms Part 3 – Debunking Stress Myths

Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Part 3 - Debunking Stress Myths

This is the transcript of Live the 8Wise™ Way Podcast.

Episode Thirty-Five:

Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms Part 3 – Debunking Stress Myths

Welcome everybody to the Live the 8WiseTM Way podcast with me, Kim Rutherford, Psychotherapist, author and creator of the 8WiseTM methodology for better mental health and also wellbeing, because they go hand in hand, and I get asked this an awful lot, Kim why do you do mental health and wellbeing? Because really what I like to do is specialize in psychological wellbeing and psychological wellbeing means looking after our mental health and making sure that our mind is working in the way that keeps us healthy, but also looking after our overall psychological wellbeing and mental wellbeing. And if you put those two together, what you’re able to then do is put in place recovery and prevention tools in order to look after your mental health and wellbeing for the rest of your life. So that’s what really 8WiseTM is all about. It’s about a methodology that helps you manage your mental health and your wellbeing for the rest of your life.

At the moment we’re covering a mini-series, and this is part three that is talking about developing healthy coping mechanisms. Today what I want to do is talk about stress, or should I say more specifically I want to talk about debunking some of the stress myths that are out there. Obviously, an awful lot of what I do is around learning how to manage stress because, although stress itself is not a mental health issue, and I want to make that clear, stress itself is not a mental health issue, if stress is not managed effectively or appropriately in some cases it can be a gateway to a lot of other mental health. So, what stress really is, I guess, it’s a pressure point, it’s a big impact on our overall psychological wellbeing. So as part of developing coping mechanisms or developing really healthy coping mechanisms, it’s really important to understand the facts and sometimes that’s one of the biggest coping mechanisms we’ve got.

When I work with my clients, I tend to get them to talk about, just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s true, just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean its fact and so, when we’re looking at dealing with things like anxiety, negative thinking processes, those day-to-day issues that we experience, that can sometimes lead us down the rabbit hole into these unhealthier thinking patterns or emotional feelings, then really what I ask my clients to do is try to focus on the evidence and focus on the facts. What that does is help you to manage the thinking, manage the moment, bring you back into the reality of the situation rather than following through with the catastrophic thinking and the spiralling that it can lead us to.

And so really, I thought it’s really important that we understand stress, and I’ve covered stress a few times in this podcast obviously from day one a lot of what we talk about is stress, but I’ve never really focused on the many myths about stress and I do so much research and I’m always looking for the simplest way to explain things to people and the simplest way to talk about it with other people. As I was doing my research, I came across a lovely Psychologist by the name of Andrew Bernstein and Andrew Bernstein came up with these eight deadly myths about stress, the common myths about stress and I thought, you know 8WiseTM Ways is all about these eight magical things so what better way to explain about the myths of stress than talk about eight deadly myths about stress that can help you to understand stress better, to gather more effective facts, so that when you are developing your own stress management techniques to help with your mental health and wellbeing, then you will have better insight, you have better understanding, you’ll have more facts, more evidence to work with.

So, we’re going to go through all eight. It’s worth grabbing a pen and paper if you want to learn about stress. And again, a big thank you to Andrew Bernstein. Andrew Bernstein actually wrote an article in Psychology Today on this very, very subject so if you want to go and learn more about it, you can head to Psychology Today and actually check it out for yourself. But a big thank you to Andrew for taking the time out to explain to people the eight deadly myths about stress. So, let’s have a look at it.

Number one myth – stress comes from your circumstances. Well, realistically, this is true to a degree but stress actually comes from your thoughts. It comes from the thoughts you have about your circumstances, not the actual circumstances themselves. This is why people have different emotional reactions to the same situation. You might have Bob and Mary going through exactly the same experience at the moment. So, for example, Bob and Mary might be going through redundancy processes at work, been doing the same job for the same amount of time and yet the situation will have a different stressful impact on them and that is because it’s not about the circumstances they’re in, it’s about how each of those individuals are responding to those circumstances, how their particular thoughts, how their particular conditioned mindset, is responding to that set of circumstances. And that’s why stress actually is a very individual experience. We can generalize about stress, we can provide advice, guidance, and information that is generalistic about stress, but realistically, you as an individual will experience stress about different things, about circumstances that might be the same as other people’s, but you’ll experience it differently. Therefore, your stress management techniques need to be unique to you because your experiences of stress are unique to you and what triggers your stress will be unique to you. So, stress comes from your circumstances? Yes, to a degree, but more correct is the fact it comes from your thoughts about the circumstances that you are experiencing. That is number one.

Number two – stress is a motivator. I hear this all the time. I hear it all the time,  “I work brilliant under stress, stress is brilliant for me, I get more done under stress”. Maybe you do, but it’s probably more realistic that you actually get more done when you are stimulated rather than stressed, and this is a common thing. We sometimes fail to distinguish effectively between what stress is and what stimulation is. So, when you’ve got deadlines at work or when you need to set goals, whether it’s personal or professional, and you’re pushing yourself to perform at full capacity, it’s stimulating, and that stimulation brings the brain alive. It gives you lots of adrenaline to work from. It’s when our intellectual wellness is at its best because our brain functions at its best when it is getting stimulated. But stress is when you are anxious, when you are upset, or you are frustrated, and that dramatically reduces your ability to perform. So people who are getting things done under what they think is stress and that they’re succeeding when they’re stressed, actually, the more realistic way of looking at it is actually your intellectual wellness is boom, boom, boom from an 8WiseTM perspective, because what’s actually happening is you are succeeding in spite of your stress, because having a fully stimulated brain is enhancing your cognitive function. It’s enhancing the way that your brain works so there is a distinguished difference between stress and stimulation. Stress can have a negative impact on your performance, where mental stimulation can have an incredibly positive impact on your performance. So, stress is not necessarily a motivator. The stimulation that can happen to a brain is actually your key motivator. You’re not stressed because you’ve been set a deadline, you are stimulated because you’ve been set a deadline. You are not stressed because you’ve got goals to meet, you are stimulated because you’ve got a purpose and a focus, and there is a difference. So don’t look at that way of life of “oh, stress is really, really good for me”. See, stress is very unhealthy, but stimulation, intellectual wellness, is really good for you. Finding ways to stimulate your brain is always going to be a very, very positive process if you are wanting to perform at your best, whether it be personal or professional. And that’s number two.

Number three – some stress is good for you. Well, this is another popular myth, isn’t it, I guess. It come from Dr. Han Selye. He was the founder of Modern Stress Concept, and what he said was that activities like sports and sex also produce a surge in stress hormones so he promoted the idea of good stress or positive stress. But there’s been a lot of research since then that has proven that stress contributes to 75%, or between 75% and 90%, of medical conditions, including the six leading causes of death in the human species. So, it comes back to what we’ve said in the previous one, stress itself research has proven is not good for you. It is not good for you. It has a major risk on medical conditions, and it has a risk on your own mortality. But just like we said in the previous one, stimulation is good for you. Mental stimulation is good for you so don’t get confused between the two when you are feeling levels of stress. Do not lean into it even more. What you need to be doing is leaning away from it, trying to manage it, trying to reduce it, but mental stimulation that’s worth leaning into. So, lean into remaining stimulated, lean into learning, lean into keeping yourself mentally active, and that will be really good for you. And that’s number three.

Now, number four – without stress in your life, you would just sit around and drool. Well, maybe you would, who knows really. But I don’t think that’s true. Some people are so used to experiencing stress that they don’t remember what life was like without it. I was like this for a while. I was that person who was telling myself, yeah, I strive through stress, stress is where my natural baseline is. I would wear my stress on my sleeve as like a badge of honour, but realistically, it just got to the stage where I wasn’t managing my life very well, and therefore I wasn’t managing my stress very well and I was ill. I was getting ill, more and more ill and for those of you who know my story, I got so ill I ended up taking lots of time off work and almost having a breakdown because of it. And that’s what stress did. Stress triggered that, but you’ve got to look at it, young children, they experience very little stress, and they have plenty of energy and they explore lots of interests. And so that the same is true for adults, even with the responsibilities we have. Okay? What that basically means is, without stress in your life, you will have more cognitive function, which means you will have more ability to learn new things, do new things, go out there and get that stimulation of brain craves. Without stress, you are actually able to juggle more so even though you already have lots of responsibilities in your life, when you live a life that has got reduced levels of stress, your brain feels freer. You feel like you have more time, and then you also have more capacity mentally to fill that time with interesting things. So, without stress in your life, you would not be bored. You would not be just sat around doing nothing, you’d actually have a more fulfilling life. You’d have more energy to do thing, you’d have more fun, you’d have more interests. So, it’s important to find ways to de-stress if you are wanting to have a fulfilling life with a better quality of life as well. And that’s number four, halfway through.

Number five – the best way to deal with stress is to exercise, breathe, and relax. Now, I talk about this all the time, and I do talk about it, and I do say to people, you know, just stop. Just breathe. Improve your relaxation techniques, improve your exercise but remember, stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life, it comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life. So when I’m talking to you about, you know, do some exercise, breathe more, and do that relaxation element to things, it is really important to do those things because what they actually do is bring you to a level of mindfulness allowing you to focus on the moment, allowing you to slow the moment down, allowing you to slow life down so you can just put yourself in the moment. What that’s really important to do is it helps you to manage what your brain is doing so rather than just relieving the effects of stress, which is what exercising will do, it’s what breath work will do, what relaxation techniques will do they will help you relieve the effects of stress, but they won’t help you manage or relieve the cause of stress. So, it’s really important for you to understand what your stress triggers are.

Now, if any of you have done my courses, my 8WiseTM courses, or you’ve read my book, then we spend a lot of time in there trying to understand what the specific trigger to your stress is so that you can learn to manage them or you can learn to work through them. In therapy with me, we talk about it from the perspective of heal from the past, learn to manage the challenges of the present in order to create a healthier, happier life and therefore what we’re looking at from that perspective of stress is you bring in the exercise and the breathing and the relaxation things to help you cope in the moment, to help you relieve the stress that might be happening moment to moment. But healing from the past means going backwards, understanding where your trigger points are, understanding what may have created them, why they’re there. Maybe you have to process that, maybe you have to understand that, maybe you have to be aware of what triggers those stressful situations in order to prevent them from happening and that is a more effective long-term approach. It involves learning to think differently about challenging situations so the stress is no longer produced in the first place. It’s about changing the conditioned mindset that you have created throughout your life, through your experiences, through your culture, through information that has passed down to you and it’s about taking all of that and going, well, actually, based on all of this, the way that I’m responding isn’t healthy for me so I need to change my mindset, I need to change my mental approach, and that actually puts me at the front of managing stress rather than the back. Meaning you can prevent stress rather than just having to relieve it or respond to it when it happens because at the end of the day, like they say cure, it’d be better to cure something to experience it, and if we can, prevention is always going to be better than cure because then if we just have to prevent it, we never have to experience it in the first place. Most of the time it’s the experiencing it is actually causing us the problem so the best way to deal with stress in the moment, in the moment that you want to relieve it, is to exercise, breathe, and relax. But to really manage stress long-term, it’s about finding the root cause and processing it, managing it, working through it, healing from it, and overcoming it. Whatever you have to do when you’ve identified what your cause of stress is. That was number five.

Number six – stress is a choice. I hear this a lot and you find this an awful lot with some of those performance coaches. You hear it a lot in workplaces when they say no, when they almost make somebody who doesn’t feel stressed about a situation as if there’s some form of hierarchy in comparison to another one. Absolute BS. Absolute BS. Stress is a by-product of subconscious beliefs you have about the world. Okay. What that means is, you can’t choose not to believe something, you can’t just choose that. Those things happen. Those responses, those subconscious responses happen within a split second, and they are based on an abundance of beliefs that you have developed throughout your entire life. You believe it because you think it’s true and to you, in that moment based on your experiences, based on everything you’ve known in your life, it might be true for you in that moment. And to eliminate stress, you must learn to challenge those beliefs so that you can see them differently. That’s something you can do. This is that concept of control, what you can control, let go of what you can’t. You can’t necessarily control in the moment it happens how you are going to respond to a situation, what you can do is learn to change your response when you understand it, when you know what it is, when you know what it comes from, you know what the root cause is, and that’s really what we should be doing. So, stress itself is not a choice. How we choose to develop stress management tools in order to manage it is a choice. So we have a choice in changing our mindset, changing our belief system, changing how we might perceive stressful situations in the future but in the moment, we don’t have any control over it at all. Therefore, stress is not a choice, it’s a function of insights and only when we change our insights can we change our stress response. So that is number six.

Number seven – stress is inevitable. Okay, look for something you’re not bothered by that other people are. So, look at an easy one, phobias for example. Have a think about the people that you know that might be scared of heights or flying or spiders, something that they’re scared of that you are not. People who’ve experienced stress in those situations say it’s inevitable because they can’t imagine not feeling stressed, but you know that’s not true. You know that it is possible to not feel stress in those situations. What’s happening to them is their emotions are coming from their beliefs, and your emotions are coming from your beliefs. That’s why one person can jump out of an airplane without any fear whatsoever because their belief system isn’t triggering a stress response, yet another person struggles to even stand on a couple of ranks on a ladder because their belief system genuinely leads them to feel that they’re incredibly fearful, they’re scared, they’re in danger, and so they become incredibly stressed. The same is true for whatever you are stressed out about, whether it be money, work, the kids, relationships, whatever it is, it is entirely possible to think differently about the situation. Okay. It is possible, it might not be easy, and you might need to learn it, you might need to train it, but stress is not inevitable in every situation. It is inevitable if you keep leaning into the thinking processes and the insight that you know causes you stress, but you have the power to change it. You have the power to control it. Stress itself is not inevitable because not everybody feels stress about the same situations, therefore, you can change your mindset, you can change your insight, and you can think differently to prevent that stress happening. Ultimately, stress management requires a different approach to your thinking, to your belief system. If you can put the time and effort into changing your mindset, changing your thinking patterns, changing your belief system, it will have a different impact on your emotions and your thoughts, and therefore it will have a different impact on your stress triggers, reducing them, potentially even eliminating them. And that is number seven.

Then number eight, and I hear this an awful lot, I have a lot of clients come and see me and I’ll ask them about stress, and they go, yeah, but everyone’s stressed. it’s no big deal. And I think a lot of that is because the word stress is usually about, a lot of people just link it as if it’s this really small thing about not meeting deadlines in work or being late for something but realistically, stress is so much bigger than that. Every moment of frustration you have about every single thing in your life can lead to stress and that stress can lead to negative emotions, negative thoughts, health risks, all of those things. So realistically, any form of stress, any level of stress that you might experience is a big deal. It is a big deal. It is impacting your brain. It is impacting your body. It’s impacting your emotions, your psychological being, your physicality. everything. Stress is a big deal. It leads to so many other issues. As we said, between 75% and 90% of medical conditions, stress contributes towards including the six leading causes of death. 75-90% conditions stress is contributing to. So don’t ever tell yourself that your current experience of stress is no big deal because it’s affecting your health, it’s affecting you physically, and it’s affecting you mentally. Just because you can’t see all of those effects, just because you can’t see all of the impact doesn’t mean it’s not happening. So if you are experiencing any form of stress, then you need to learn to deal with it as quickly as you possibly can and more importantly, to really look after your mental health and wellbeing. You need to not only be able to respond and reduce your stress levels in the moment you experience stress, as in take control and manage the challenges of the present, but you need to go backwards. You need to look at what those causes are, what those root causes are of your stress. What is it from your past? What has developed your mindset, your conditioned mindset, that means that these certain things in your life trigger your stress. You need to think about that. You need to go backwards and learn to eliminate it because that is the best stress management coping mechanism you will ever have. Eliminating it rather than learning to live with it. So by all means, yes, stress management techniques that we’ve discussed there and I’ve discussed previously as well, sleep, exercise, all of those things are really, really important when it comes to reducing the impact of stress in the moment but the perfect way to manage stress is to understand the mindset that leads to your stress being triggered. And when you understand the mindset that leads to your stress being triggered, you are then able to adapt, to change, completely redo it if you need to, but that’s what you need to do.

So, if you think having a bath every now and then is helping you to manage stress, it’s just making that day a little bit easier. But if you want to make sure that that thing that triggered you that day doesn’t keep triggering you for the rest of your life, then go and do the other piece of work. It will take time. It will not always be comfortable, and you might need some support doing it, but doing that will help you become the best stress manager you could ever possibly be in your life. And by doing that, you reduce the risk of having severe medical conditions, mental health issues, and physical health issues as well and wouldn’t that be nice? Because that’s what really leads to a healthier, happier mind and a better quality of life. So, debunking the stress myth, debunking the stress myths to help you develop healthier coping mechanisms, and the best coping mechanism, the healthiest coping mechanism for managing stress is to eliminate it at the root, pull the root right out so that it can’t keep growing, it can’t keep coming back, it is gone and it’s gone for good.

I hope that has been useful for you. As I said, when we talk about stress in 8WiseTM, we talk about it an awful lot. We talk about how you do have to pull it out from the root, and I use the analogy of a gun an awful lot with regards to understanding what your bullets are, because the trigger of the gun is life and you’re going to have lots of things all the time triggering you in lots of different directions. But if you are able to find out what your key bullets are and you are able to work through them and overcome them and remove them by removing the bullets, you eliminate that stress trigger in the first place so life can happen, but you are not responding in a stressful way towards it. Which basically means you’ve mastered that art and you understand that stress will only happen if your response to it allows it to happen. You can’t change the immediate response, but you can change the mindset that leads to those thoughts and stress triggers in the first place.

So, I hope that’s been useful. As I said, if you want to learn more, then head to my website www.8wise.co.uk and you can head to the store there where you can access the book, the manual , 8WiseTM Ways to a Healthier, Happier Mind and you can also access the 12-week journal, the 12-month planner, and the Pocketbook of Wellbeing all about helping you to do exactly what I’m talking about here, manage stress, understand your wellbeing spectrum, understand your key pressure points, understand what triggers you, and learn some tools and techniques for managing it and removing the root cause right at the base there.

So you can get all of that at the website and, if you are interested, in the next six weeks, I will be starting the 8WiseTM Accelerator program which is 12 modules all delivered online, and the way that they will be delivered is nice and simple. They will be pre-recorded so if you can’t attend a live session, that’s absolutely okay, they’re going to be pre-recorded and when you sign up to do it, you’ll be welcomed into a Facebook group. The reason I’m doing it in Facebook is because I want there to be a community, because obviously when you go through anything with regards to mental health and wellbeing, you need a support system and a community. The 8WiseTM community is amazing. So, you’ll sign up for the course, you’ll get welcomed into the Facebook group and you’ll get to meet all of the other people that are doing everything with you. And then once a week each module video will be uploaded with any of the work that you need to do. So, you’ll get the video with regards to all the underpinning knowledge, you’ll get homework and all the homework tasks, and you will also get the specific worksheets and workbooks you need to do that week to help you with that particular module. That will take place for a period of weeks and then ultimately, I will pop in and out of that Facebook group giving you extra help tools and techniques and tips as time is going on as well. It really will be like group therapy, but that is coming up within the next six weeks, so check out the website in the next week or two and all of that information will be there.

If you want this information directly sooner, then please do go into the website again and you can sign up for my newsletter. My newsletter comes out weekly and in that newsletter it lets you know about all of the events we’ve got coming up, all of the training courses we’ve got coming up because we’ve got the 8WiseTM Accelerator coming up, we’ve got the Managing Emotional Eating coming up, we’ve got the Developing Good Self-esteem coming up as well so those courses that are really about changing your mindset, learning to understand what your conditioned mind is, learning how to develop these healthier coping mechanisms so you can have better mental health and wellbeing and a better quality of life. Like I say, I call it Living the 8WiseTM Way, and I welcome you to join me to start doing that as soon as you possibly can.

Of course, as always, if you’ve ever got any questions or queries with regards to 8WiseTM and how it might be able to help you, your family, your friends, or your employees, then feel free to email me. All my contact details are in the comments underneath this episode.

But that’s enough for this week. Thank you very much. These will look at eight common myths about stress debunked. Debunked. As I said, one of the healthiest coping mechanisms you can ever have for managing stress in life is understanding stress in the first place and starting to work with facts and evidence rather than assumption and second guessing.

So, thank you very much. Thanks for joining me for the Live the 8WiseTM Way podcast. My name is Kim Rutherford, Psychotherapist, author and creator of the 8WiseTM methodology for better mental health and wellbeing, and I look forward to chatting to you as soon, hopefully this time next week. So, take care and I’ll speak to you soon. Bye.

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