What is Stress Mentality? In S.M. the belief is:
“I can’t take care of myself until I get everything done.”
We have all experienced the short-term stimulation of an upcoming deadline, exam, or speaking engagement, and when necessary temporarily set aside our basic needs to accomplish a higher goal. Stress mentality here refers to a more ongoing, chronic, “self-sacrificial” way of thinking.
Many people self-medicate with sleeping pills, alcohol or other substances, or are prescribed antidepressants or addicting benzodiazepines for stress or anxiety. While medications can play an important role, all too often they are utilized instead of more powerful alternatives, such as changing the way you think, or how you take care of yourself.
What are the pros and cons, the plusses and minuses of stress mentality? Is there a better alternative?
First, what are the plusses, the benefits, of stress mentality?
I. Many people believe they need stress and fear of failure, or bad consequences to be motivated. However, there are much healthier ways to self-motivate (Hint: it is connected to your values and passions).
Now, what are the minuses, the cons, of S.M?
I. There are always things that need to get done.
II. S.M. generates chronic stress and all of its negative effects on the body. (link to Body states Video)
III. Like a car, our mind and body needs basic maintenance to run. I have to put gas in and change the oil even if I’m busy or else bad things happen.
IV. Similar to the car, stress mentality ends up with some sort of breakdown of mind or body.
What, then, is the alternative? The reverse. In Reverse-Stress Mentality the belief is:
“If I take care of myself first I will be more efficient in getting my work done.
“I have to differentiate between what needs to be done and what can wait so there’s balance.”
What are the plusses of reverse-stress mentality?
You start to take care of yourself, therefore you will have:
What are the negatives of reverse-stress mentality?
I. Not everything will get done right away.
II. You have to learn new (healthier) ways to motivate
III. You have to set limits, including saying “no” and sometimes disappointing people.
Most of us have a never-ending conveyor belt of things that need to get done. Many people really believe that they can’t take care of themselves until the belt stops.
When I refer to self-care that means biological, psychological, social and spiritual needs. What gets in the way of carving out time for self-care, or “pushing the pause button” on the conveyor belt? Those factors include:
– Self-worth, how you judge yourself
– Fears about how others will judge you
– Fear of failure and inadequacy
– Fear of getting people upset, angry, or disappointed in you
– Fear of asking for help.
There are many ways to get help overcoming these obstacles; psychotherapy is only one of them. Learning and practicing mindfulness helps to get rid of your judging and fears about how others will judge you. It also helps take your mind out of the past, out of the future, and into the present moment, where it is needed in order to make the best decisions.
Successful implementation of the reverse stress mentality requires skills for managing time and setting boundaries, and these skills are teachable. Coaching or therapy can be helpful. If you have trouble setting boundaries and saying “no,” maybe a 12-Step program such as CODA would be helpful. If you can’t stop obsessing, newer antidepressants help that a lot, with minimal side effects.
Mindfulness (and other types of meditation), physical exercise, and other routine practices can literally change the brain, as evidenced in recent brain imaging studies. It takes hard work but it’s worth it.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Set an intention, and mindfulness will help keep you focused on that intention. You’ll frequently slip back to your old thinking and behaviors; but when you notice that happening don’t judge – just ground yourself and re-establish your goals.