Own your stress, make it work for you

No need to fight it or avoid it

Hi,

this week the Italian government imposed some heavy restrictions on restaurants, gyms, theatres, cinemas and other places that could help spread the virus. This is raising my stress again at a level similar to March, when we went into a full lockdown.

The problem is that data showed how it wasn’t helpful. They should have prepared the hospitals to cure the possible surge of patients. Nothing has been done…

But I don’t want to get political. Is the coronavirus hitting your country again, too?

If you are experiencing too much stress, this issue will help you. Let me know if you found the ideas helpful.

See you next week!

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Own your stress, make it work for you

Stress is almost trendy nowadays. It seems like it's the toll we have to pay to be alive. And the pandemic is bringing an additional daily dose of stress.

I only knew two strategies to deal with stress: either fight it, trying to solve its causes, or fly from it, avoid all possible causes. But they could both be wrong.

Stress signals what you care about. It can be turned into a force for good. This article explains how to do it in three steps.

First, acknowledge your stress. Recognize it's there. When you try to ignore anything, you reinforce it. If you accept your stress you'll enable yourself to study what's at the center of it.

Then, "own it". Connect it with your values. Use this phrase: "I’m stressed about [insert stressor from step one] because I deeply care about …”

Finally, leverage your stress to achieve your goals and connect more deeply with what you care about. Ask yourself: Is your response in alignment with the values behind your stress?

These days, you could be stressed about the pandemic. It could make you snap at your family for the silliest reason.

Following the above three steps you could find out that it's the concern about the safety and future of your family that is stressing you out. So, you see that your behavior is counterproductive. Now you can change it and make it more in line with your values.

[Read the full content here: In Stressful Times, Make Stress Work for You]

How to pull yourself out of despair

The surge capacity is the collection of our internal systems that allows us to survive acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. If you feel desperate and overstressed these days, it's because the pandemic has pushed us over our surge capacity.

It's not a natural disaster, of course. But it triggers the same survival systems.

A natural disaster is an acute stress, but "fortunately" it occurs over a short amount of time. The pandemic is taking months and we don't yet know when it will end.

Guess what? Our surge capacity is limited. So the coninuous stress we are subjected to can deplete it.

I experienced it during the extremely long and strict Italian lockdown. For days I was angry and restless, although I was already used to work from home and my life didn't change that much.

In this article I found out the cause: I was suffering from ambiguous loss. It is a loss that's unclear and lacks resolution. I am a professional problem solver I can't resist it. But I can't find a solution for the pandemic or the questionable choices of our rulers. My mind is spinning in circles.

I coped with it focusing on what I could fix: never worry about what you can't control. But the article suggests a different technique.

It's called "both-and" thinking. It means recognizing that even in the worse situation there is something good. And that the bad and the good coexist.

So, for example, right now you can say:

“This is terrible and many people are dying, and this is also a time for our families to come closer together,”

We have to face reality. But how we frame that reality mentally can help us cope with it.

[Read the full content here: Our Brains Struggle to Process This Much Stress]

How to avoid harmful unintended consequences

After the accident at the Fukushima power plant in 2011, Japan decided to shut down its nuclear plants. The citizens were scared: how long before the next (and maybe worse) accident?

By 2013 the country was free of nuclear power. But since 2018, Japan started reactivating the plants. Why?

The pollution from fossil fuels caused more deaths than the Fukushima disaster. And this wasn't the only negative consequence.

This is a clear example of unintended consequences. In other words: the cure is worse than the disease.

Our lives are littered with unintended consequences. Especially when we face high-stakes decisions.

Consider almost every large expense. You keep your eyes on your dream car/house/phone/guitar/bike for months. You cut every non-necessary expense and live like a monk. Finally you buy it.

But: surprise! You find out there are hidden costs. Maintenance requires a lot of time. Accessories are expensive. You spend more time obsessing about it than actually enjoying it.

We are naturally bad at envisioning these consequences. We place too much weight on current and dramatic events. On top of that, consequences have compounding effects. Time makes them worse.

This is how do you escape the law of unintended consequences:

  • try doing nothing, often bad decisions are a function of impatience,

  • imagine the worst case scenario, you may realize it isn't a risk worth taking,

  • imagine how your decision could bring the opposite effect of what you are expecting.

Not all decisions deserve a long investigation of all the possible unintended consequences. When the effects can be reversed, decide quickly. Otherwise, take your time.

[Read the full content here: The Law of Unintended Consequences]


Best book of the week

Hell Yeah or No, by Derek Sivers

I loved everything of this book. It’s condensed wisdom.

Derek leads an extremely intentional life. He ponders every decision. He doesn’t do anything because someone else thinks he should.

The book is a collection of his best blog posts that can help you with the important decisions of your life and career. Every one of them shares a concept distilled in its simplest and strongest form.

Read it more than once and keep going back to the chapters you found most useful. They will provide great prompts for reflection.


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Thank you for reading this newsletter.

Now, I’m curious about you. What decisions are challenging you at the moment? What are the mental strategies that you find more helpful?

Write me back!

And don’t forget to share We Who Think with your smartest friends. Thank you!

Until next week,
Alberto

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