How to Prepare for Something that Stresses You
When there is an upcoming situation that we are anxious about, how do we prepare ourselves? At times that stress has filled our body and mind, in which way do we approach it and can there be any control from our side?
We reinforce the thoughts that stress us more
I many times mention how important it is to understand that we have overestimated the potential of the calculating mind. This seems to me a polarized approach as we seem to fail to take into account other possibly more useful tools such as our emotions and intuition. So we try to approach everything with the mind. When a situation that we find hard is getting closer we think more about it. The thoughts that arise in the mind about this topic become more usual and are lasting longer. According to what I have noticed, we most of the times reinforce these thoughts. Because in our subconscious we have the deep belief that this way we are getting better prepared.
When a difficult time is approaching we obviously believe that the more different scenarios we take into account the more chances we have to know what to do in that moment. We strategize too much and analyze every single detail that possibly will play a role in the situation. And the more we look into the issue the more potential outcomes we recognise.
At first look, as I said, this looks normal. Because statistically the more knowledge and data you have, the more the possibilities are to achieve the needful to you outcome. However, while we do that something else is happening, too. The situation is already stressful to us but we try to keep it in our minds more. Obviously most of the times this results in a spiral increase of the anxiety and when the time comes you may have reached the point to be one step before the heart attack. But what mostly matters in fact is you to operate as well as possible at that moment, right?
A lot of times things work very differently even if we have exhaustively planned them.
We don’t need amazing clarity to know that we can’t control everything. In fact we can control just a few things and about this I am not sure. We don’t even have control of our bodies. When, for example, you go to sleep, how can you be sure that you will wake up? I don’t mean the alarm. But how can you be 100% sure that you will wake? You can put an alarm but how can you hear it since in case you aren’t lucid dreaming, you have zero consciousness? When you put food in your mouth, how can you be sure that it will be digested? Most of us have just been used to this outcome because it was always happening. But do we notice what is going on inside our bodies? Which organs are working and in which processes they are engaged?
Therefore we have life which is unpredictable and there are so many things that we aren’t in control. This means that no plan can be adequate to what will happen so with the mind we are able to reach up to a point even if we manage to not become sick due to the levels of stress. As well, what makes you think that you can fully control a situation when you can’t control your body with the use of linear logic in most instances?
Most events happens without us even knowing, automatically
Have you ever thought that the majority of the events happening we don’t recognise and we do nothing about them but they just happen? Have you recognise an eternal flow everywhere happening and things changing all the time? You can’t haven’t noticed it since everyone can recognise it even inside their bodies in the example of sleep and digestion I mentioned. In there it seems you show full trust. You easily let go. You are very confident that you will do nothing but things will work perfectly.
But when something makes you anxious you can’t let go like that right? First of all it’s very important and the thoughts can’t stop coming to you and secondly you believe that the more you think about it the better for you. Have you thought that in a situation that looks hard, you can also operate almost automatically like in the digestion?
I think most people don’t believe that. Because we don’t give much priority to our intuition. Although most body processes happen under the carpet, we believe that with strategic organization and information processing we will be able to make us be exactly the way we want to be at a time.
Intuition is the heaviest weapon
But in day to day situations in events that aren’t usual and thus unpredictable, what will decide about your actions is your intuition. Humans have evolved like that since the frontal cortex processes data slowly compared to other parts of our brain and this delay could be been fatal. So we have evolved with more efficient systems to survive in life. Science talks about the fight or flight or freeze response. At times of extreme value the body turns down the frontal cortex and the immune system, sends more blood in the hands and legs and many others. This happens again automatically in order to preserve energy for the most direct needs.
Normally this is approached as something negative because it is attached with high anxiety and with the lack of rationality at that time, as we said, the frontal cortex remains closed. However, you can look at it from another point of view. As we said the body works efficiently so takes the steering wheel from the frontal cortex and gives it all to intuition. The teaching of the body is obvious, you can play with your mind and calculate as much as you like but when things get hard is when the heavy artillery arrives, the intuition.
Since the heavy artillery is intuition and the time is stressful to you, we can conclude that it is important to let intuition work at that time, right? This is the razor’s edge in the fight or flight response. There is the possibility that you are reactive and freeze from extreme stress or behave like a maniac. And there is also the possibility that you will remain as calm as possible in order to let the major weapon of intuition to manifest in your actions. Which one looks a better choice?
I am saying all the above mostly in order to explain that we need a shift in our perception and start letting go and trusting that our intuition will know at that moment what is wise for us to do and we will do it. The more we recognise its power the more we will be realizing that what mostly matters is to let the intuition work at this very moment that will arrive.
It’s important for you to be OK for the intuition to manifest
When you start trusting your intuition you also start understanding that it’s far more important not to lose yourself from stress than to prepare every single detail. As we said, preparing every single detail makes you more anxious. It’s easy to understand that whatever the preparation if you go there and you are blocked by stress it won’t play much of a role.
In order to avoid the black or white thinking I have to state that I don’t mean that we don’t plan anything. Of course we are organised and we take everything we have into account. What I am talking about is this over analysis about any single detail and then the new ideas that arise and so on. I am talking about a wider look. A look in the bigger picture. You can imagine the general state that you want to approach something. You can have in your mind several data. In the end, though, your biggest weapon will be your intuition that will know what to do at that moment. In order for this to happen is important for you to be ok.
Imagine the difference in your approach when you have inside you the confidence that you will automatically do what’s best when the time comes. How different would be your preparation and how good you could be due to the low levels of anxiety inside you?
Think that you prepare for something. And you have now given highest priority to maintain your calmness when the time comes. Instead of reinforcing the thoughts about the potential risks that will appear, you don’t give them much value since you know that most of them are just ideas and there are also other potential issues that you can’t imagine now. You are planning to be less stressed and you make your life easier anyway for the period before the event. So you bet on your intuition and make sure that you will be ready at that time independently of what the thoughts are telling you.
Focusing on what’s important, on the moment that you were expecting
This way you are giving value to the moment that is important to you and you give more chances of you being your best self. You are letting yourself come out and act with clarity according to what the circumstances will show. This means that you will have more natural reactions to what will happen. As mentioned, that doesn’t mean that you are entirely out of plan, you have instead the greater idea in mind. However, the micromanagement will happen at the time of the real experience and not before. Even if you want to play a fake role, still you need to be as calm as possible to help the intuition guide you to follow the concept.
This is what I think happens with the experienced athletes or other professionals that are in a high level of competition. Even if they are anxious they have been used to the game. So most of the times they have a controlled stress because they don’t overthink and due to their experience they have the confidence that in an important game for example they will play as well as they know. The best ones I believe have learnt to use the fight or flight response they way I described, with great trust in their instant intuition.
Maybe this is what self esteem is about. You can’t have self esteem according to theories. You can’t even be fully confident in an exam that you have learnt everything by heart. You never know what happens. But you have self esteem when you know that there will be unexpected events and you believe you will be able to whatever is needed. You will maintain your calmness so that your intuition can show you the appropriate road and you will be able to follow it instantly.