In a hilarious old episode of the Bob Newhart Show, Bob, a counselor, helps a patient who is suffering from a fear of being buried alive in a box. He claims he can cure her in a matter of minutes. She tells him of her fears, and he looks at her and yells, “Stop it!” She looks at him and says, “Well, what are you saying?” He rolls his eyes and answers that next time she feels afraid, “Just stop it.” She pauses and then repeats, “So, if I’m afraid, I should just stop being afraid of being buried alive in a box?” He replies, “Yes.”
The episode is funny in its simplicity. Sometimes, we (meaning me) can make things so complicated. And so, this week, I want us all to try a simple experiment together. I don’t know hardly anyone who doesn’t battle stress. I want to ask everyone, for one day, to stop being stressed. Since this is not the Bob Newhart Show, let’s take this a step further. Here are the steps:
- For one day, become as aware as possible of every moment you are feeling stress.
- Anytime you are aware of stress, choose one of three responses:
- Option 1 – Take two long deep breaths.
- Option 2 – Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling stressed?” Then follow up that question with “Is the cause of my stress right now worthy of stress?”
- Option 3 – Consciously slow down everything you are doing.
- Use only one method for the whole day.
- As soon as you are finished using one of the three techniques, then continue on with your day. Next time, stress reappears, repeat your method.
- At the end of the day, evaluate what happened.
- Optional – comment at the bottom of this blog about your experience and see what others experienced.
I don’t pretend that using these simple methods will eliminate all stress in your life, but I am convinced that, for the most part, stress is a habit that can be overcome. These three options are attempts to counteract that habit by calling it out and replacing it. The first option is a physical response. Deep breaths reduce physical stress. The second response is a mental response. By facing our stress, we realize that most of what causes us stress is either undefined or not worthy of the tension we are feeling. That understanding takes the teeth out of stress. The third response is an action response. Speed increases stress. Drive your car at 100 miles per hour and see if you don’t feel the tension. The simple choice to slow everything down is a magical stress-reducer.
We all have better things to do with our lives than to feel perpetually stressed. Stress is unnecessary and unproductive. Stress chokes the joy out of life. While this experiment is simple, it is meant as a start to a healthier life. Many situations occur in life that are acutely stressful, for which we need all of our resources to endure and survive. Let’s not add to those inevitable times by giving into unwarranted, habitual stress.
I can’t wait to hear how the experiment goes!
Here’s the Bob Newhart episode!