Sometimes I surprise myself. This time I surprised myself how thoughtful I am. See, that’s because I am not that thoughtful very often :) So, as some of you might remember in the first How to Cope with Stress article I told you that I would like to make a little experiment. Then I asked if you could share your strategies on how you deal with stress. And here is the quote:
In my next series of articles, we will explore different coping strategies and how they make us act the way we act, thus inevitably affecting one's well-being.
But first of all, I need to gather some empirical data from you :) I will be grateful if you share how you deal with stress. Besides being curious, I think it could be extremely helpful for other people.
I really managed to gather that "empirical data" thanks to your lovely comments and engagement. Please, don't panic! I am NOT going to use what you've shared without your permission anywhere. I just wanted to cherish everyone's kindness by bringing your comments back to life in this very article, which I called "Steemians' Stress Survival Guide".
It felt amazing when I went back and looked through the How to Cope with Stress series. I was surprised to discover once again how deep in thought, kind and meaningful comments people have left. However, for the purpose of this article, I've picked these comments which included some shared experience on how to cope with stress.
Like I said, when I first had the idea of Steemians’ Stress Survival Guide a few months ago I just wanted to cherish everyone’s kindness for engaging with my work. But now I am absolutely positive that these comments are totally worth sharing because they really represent our collective (Steemian) wisdom :D
What is collective wisdom you ask? Well, believe it or not, it is a real thing. Collective wisdom is the phenomenon in which the intelligence of a group is higher than the intelligence of any of its members. (1). There is a difference between collective wisdom and collective intelligence. Collective intelligence is referred more like a decision-making process of the group and is not necessarily a human thing (yes, it is also an
alien animal thing). (6).
There is still a debate on what exactly collective wisdom is – is it a group product, is it a process, or a group state? Like I just mentioned, some say that it is the gathered knowledge of the group which is bigger than the knowledge each of us has. Furthermore, an individual rarely or never has access to this cumulative knowledge. I guess if we could gather the ideas and thoughts of all humans of all times, analyze them and build on them we could find ourselves with answers to the biggest cosmologic mysteries and cures to the incurable diseases.
Others see it as a group state in which the group is “in the zone” – thinking like a single organism. (3, ). During this state of "the group mind", the group starts building on ideas and conceptions. Any of them would rarely be accessible for a single member.
Some argue that cumulative knowledge is not exactly wisdom because wisdom takes reflection and meta-analysis. (2). So, if the group manages to reflect on itself and the processes that happen within, it could enter this higher level of functioning.
As you have already guessed this is an extremely broad subject, so I will leave it for some other article. I would just say that that the comments I selected for the Survival Guide are not just a report of good practices in coping with stress but rather a reflection on everyone’s experience with stress. So we are a bit closer to “the wisdom”, right? :)
Let’s see now what a Stress Guidebook our group thinking has created.
First steps of dealing with stress
I bet that you have heard thousands of times the following statement: “The first step of dealing with a problem is acknowledging it”. Even if you are fed up with statements like that, there is some truth in them. We, humans, are great in denial. It is amazing how blind we could be sometimes. And no wonder that some of the comments discuss this particular extremely important first step: the acknowledgment that something bothersome is happening.
As I have gotten older, however, I have steadily grown in my determination to not simply accept the “status quo” and be resigned to nothing being possible as a remedy. To answer your question, then, I ‘deal with stress’ first by simply acknowledging that it is real.
From there, I refuse to “lay down” in the face of situations which cause me stress. In some regards, it might appear, at least on the surface, that “laying low” would reduce stress. Having a strong sense of justice and doing what’s ‘right,” I find that would actually increase my stress, so I don’t do that. In taking a stand, it gets complicated, but overall I feel better.
Many of us take precautions to prevent stress in their lives or simply keep it at a healthy level. Having a clear structure in your day is a way to reduce the surprises and to feel secure in your daily routine. As someone said:
I don't deal well with last-minute situations or 'surprises'. 😣 I feel I have come a long way, but I also feel there is still a lot of room for improvement!
And because one cannot be prepared or plan every single thing in life, I have my ways to minimize my struggle: 1) I follow a structured daily routine, which allows me to plan most things ahead and not feel pressured by deadlines.
Precautions could include carefully choosing your working environment.
I work fewer hours with increasing age. I also choose my working environment more selectively and with whom I want to associate and whether the environment allows me to be relaxed or demands things from me that violate my ethical principles. So it is very stress-reducing to have a working environment that is in accordance with my chosen concept of life. Another stress-reducing element is that I no longer feel like I'm competing with colleagues (I never really have), but that I'm interested in working together and in consensus. Since the others do not see me as a threat, there is little cause for conflict on this page.
A workplace that you like and an occupation that you enjoy could actually help you to keep lower stress levels.
Maybe could you consider adding "6. go working" (to reduce stress). It works with me. In my case, I need stress to work more efficiently and working helps me to evacuate my stress. However, my work is also my hobby... so... ;)
When Stress is knocking on the door
While reading the comments beneath my articles, I realized that many of us try to ease their bodies in order to deal with stress. Somehow we all turn to the East and dive into the mystery of the Eastern Healing Practices. If you wonder what exactly I am talking about, let’s say that I am referring (obviously not that successfully) to practices like yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, and Eastern Martial Arts.
I practice Yoga daily (Yoga, in fact, is one of my passions). These, I feel are more preventive measures that I implement along a healthy diet, good sleep and quality time with friends and family.
My way of relieving stress is reading and practicing karate. Wado Ryu is tough, no shortcuts, no fashion, nothing trendy in it. There's also a meditation in karate and it's always so gratifying to immerse in that bubble of inner silence. I bring the martial art in all my life and it helps me a lot to react with balance in life happenings.
(…) Meditation is not easy, especially emptying your mind completely is (almost) impossible.. but it's a great help to focus and gives you that tranquil state of mind which is necessary when you practice martial arts.
It is even more stress-reducing when, for example, I already feel strained or depressed to listen to youtube videos of Buddhist monks. They ground me every time, making me calm and confident. It is a kind of spiritual sanctuary that I very much welcome.
I try to encounter situations which are strange to me or which have an unforeseen effect on me in such a way that I regulate calm breathing at the moment of stress and tell myself: This moment will also pass. This is extremely helpful.
Maybe we do have Eastern bodies and western minds?
Minds… Sometimes it seems like everything is just happening in our minds. We have a whole new world in there: sometimes a vague reflection of the outside world; an entirely subjective interpretation of the reality. Maybe we do live in a computer simulation, after all?
It looks like we all agree that calming one’s mind is crucial for dealing with obstacles. Seemingly, we all try to look closer at our experience. Sometimes we try to re-make it and re-experience it in our minds but in a different way. We often ask questions like:
- How could I have had a better outcome of this situation?
- What made me do that?
- What made them act like this?
- In what another way I could have reacted?
- What else I could have said?
Let’s agree that it’s all about our mindsets. Even the most joyful activity could be turned into stressful torture with the wrong mindset:
I focus a lot on your number 2 as I get a lot of players to come for tennis lessons after work to "RELIEVE STRESS”, however, with some clients I have to mention that I feel their stress levels are worse off as their expectations on the court do not match the reality and their mental game suffers dramatically causing further stress.
Players that just enjoy hitting without the expectation level will respond much better to stress relieving session.
Being reflective of your experiences plays a crucial role in staying physically and mentally healthy. Going through the comments under each of my stress articles, the ability to make a reflection pops up like a key skill. Let’s take a look:
As for when I am caught in the middle of the storm: I go for looong walks, do even longer sessions of Yoga, write, write and write and wait to calm down to voice or express anything that needs to be said. These strategies helped me greatly at the beginning of this year :)
Another method is that I spend a lot of time alone and reflect and write or work creatively in this time, which serve for self-reflection
I'm not an expert on coping with stress.. but through many books and articles I read, I tried to deal with it and find the right solution after I write down everything on my book until I realize that it is the time to talk to an expert 😊
However, as we can clearly see in the shared thoughts, it seems like the reflection is only a part of the coping kit. We cannot isolate it from all the rest of the tools. The following comment makes a perfect summary:
In order to live a healthy life full of vitality stress reduction is very important. I like to reduce stress but working out, eating the ketogenic diet, spending time with my kids, meditation, journaling, and getting out in nature. All of these really help me decompress after a day at my practice.
I am not a nutritionist and I don’t know whether the ketonic diet is better than any other diet, but there is one thing that we all agree: Healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep is extremely important! As one of you said:
I have always liked to sleep in my private life. If possible, I lie down for half an hour in the afternoon. This relaxes me and gives me energy for the rest of the day...
Unfortunately, I am less kind with my body. I allow myself a lot of rest and sleep as well as good and healthy food, but I should definitely have more sport and exercise.
In my articles, I shared some research on the importance of friends and family to mental and physical health. The experience of the people who commented resonated with the discussed research findings.
Then, I am leaving on my “road to recovery” vacation, to see family and friends and get my sense of vitality back …
Moreover, it seems like when helping others we often help ourselves.
I met a lot of less fortunate people in the past, mostly women and children from rural areas and they face so many stressful situations in internal conflict situation then the bad understanding of Islamic law… even I have own problem but listening and supporting them is the best way to cope with my own probs, I find so many ways to understand the situation and the best way to handle it.
Another extremely important topic was an object of discussion. Around the Christmas holidays, we all gave a thought about consumption, belongings and spending time with our loved ones. Which makes you happier – a nice present or an evening with your family?
For my parents, consumption was always just a necessity, not something to make themselves richer. I learned from them that physical and spiritual well-being is based on community.
Kids and family could be a great source of joy and happiness. However, being in the same room while everyone is staring at their smartphone is not exactly “family time”.
More seriously, I would like to stress that family time is important, this is true. But quality family time is even more important. And to me, this includes children too. Why would only family time with children being independent be the only good option? The rest (gifts and company)... who cares if quality family time is there?
Yes, who cares? Money and belongings are important to some extent, that’s true. However, the richest countries are not necessary amongst the happiest countries. That was something that was also brought into a discussion.
Thank you so much for this article! It reminded me of something it's commonly said about us Venezuelans. They say we just make a joke out of everything. That's probably true. I think we generally tend to walk "on the sunny side of the street" as that old song goes. And I do think that humor can help a big deal at the face of adversity, at least, it helps to manage stress. I learned about Laughter Yoga once here in Caracas, I was in a park and saw a group doing "Yoga de la Risa" which intrigued me and... Made me laugh. I guess I should explore it!
(the response) You seem to be right about Venezuelans! Your nation scores are quite high in the happiness classification of nations (7.8 out of 10). You can see the statistics here and compare it to other countries. Unfortunately, the levels of happiness seem to be declining in recent years. But you have been through a lot lately!|
There are other components in happiness that we are not going to discuss here. If you would like to know how much your nation scores in the happiness classification, check it here. Which brings us to the next very important statement:
Coping with Stress is Hilarious
How is so? Well, humor and laughter play a good part in staying sane. This is great news, isn’t it? Not only that numerous research papers show it, but we all have experienced it.
Humor, I think, is an often underestimated treasure that you can apply well to yourself. I practice speaking loudly with myself because it reveals my thoughts much better than when I think quietly. For example, I leave my girlfriend long voice messages and I have noticed (just like on audio recordings) that I can make myself laugh or smile about me. This moment of pausing briefly, of wanting to get angry with myself and then accepting briefly that my current feeling is just like that, already paves the way for humor.... Difficult to explain.
Laughing at least once every day is crucial (in the same way as saying good things to people we like). I, in short, agree with what you said in the article. Laughing makes us happier, we cope with stress more easily, etc...
In the end
It is all about perception after all. We respond to the world we perceive even if it is not the actual world that others see. There is a beautiful comment that I find rather inspiring and I would like to finish with it:
What we think, then we act. To regard the world as a cynic or skeptic is a tiresome habit that can also be discarded. In each of us hopeless and hopeful moments mix and we can always decide which wolf to feed.
Everyone can observe very well how much he is taken in by what he is concentrating on. The pain feeding is as great a force as the encouragement. Life needs courage and confidence. It is up to all of us to feel this encouragement within ourselves and to carry it into the world.
I couldn’t agree more that it is up to us what wolf to feed. I just looove this metaphor. And I will leave you to talk to your wolves in a minute. Before that, I would like to say how grateful I am for your engagement into this series. The conversations I had with each of you were so enriching and helped me extend and expand my way of thinking!
This Stress Guidebook was created thanks to the shared experience by @roleerob, @erh.germany, @f3nix, @cicisaja, @lemouth, @alexander.alexis, @tenniscoaching, @ginette.mgc, @drstevesmiley, @abigail-dantes.
Created by @insight-out, Valeria Sim.
All rights reserved.
Previous articles about Stress and Coping:
How to Cope with Stress? (Part 1) What is Stress?
How to Cope with Stress? (Part 2) Adaptive vs Maladaptive Coping Strategies
How to Cope with Stress? (Part 3) Problems and Irrational Thinking
How to Cope with Stress? (Part 4) Negative Emotions
How to cope with Stress? (Part 5) Humor and Friends
Survivng the Holidays. Psychology Christmas Special
How to Cope with Stress? (Part 6) Run and Hide
How to Cope with Stress? (Part 7) Am I Too Sexy or What?
- Richard P. Mann and Dirk Helbing (2017). Optimal incentives for collective intelligence. PNAS May 16, 2017 114 (20) 5077-5082
- Briskin, A., Erickson, S.,. Ott, J., Callanan, T. (2009). The Power of Collective Wisdom: And the Trap of Collective Folly. Berret-Koehler Publishers Inc., San Francisco
- Ainsworth, D. (2010). What is the Collective Wisdom Theory? Placerville, California
- Levi, R. A. (2003). Group magic: An inquiry into experiences of collective resonance.Dissertations Abstracts International. (UMI No. 3098829).
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