Stress – Be Mindful of The Walking Dread

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STRESS! Be Mindful of The Walking Dread

Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality’ Sharma

 Halcyon Days…

Remember when you were a kid, long summer holidays, six weeks of kicking back just chilling with your mates, then the ‘back to school’ ads kick in on TV half-way through (spoil sports) and the creeping countdown starts right up to the night before you have to go back.  That creeping menace is called ‘dread’ and the dread can make you feel uncomfortable, tense and very upset, and leave you feeling a bit of a wreck really. All that at such a tender age too.

It’s all in Your Head…

Well years pass, and that same feeling of dread can rear its ugly head when we have something about to happen that is significant, be it a job interview, a performance, a deadline, a presentation, a new job, or even going back to work after a period of holiday.  It is more than just being nervous too, and this is due to an added element. Anticipation. The result being you end walking around, in a bubble of worry and anxiety, anticipating and expecting the worse, literally ‘the walking dread’.  There is something to be said about the relationship between ‘anticipation’ and ‘dread’.  The former can foster the latter, feeding and fuelling it with the overall outcome being stress.

stress_lessUntil this happens…

When people are signed off with stress, there are lots of discussions about how to deal with it, and a lot of good intentions are passed between people.  These good intentions are often little more than that, and unless an appropriate intervention such as a counsellor or in extreme cases a GP are put into place, they will not amount too much in the way of help, for some maybe, but not all.

When people talk about stress, the list of possible causes are often addressed, and lots of potential solutions.  However there is an element of stress that often gets overlooked, and from looking at specific incidences it is the relationship between anticipation and dread that play significant roles.

Which can Lead too…

Both of these feelings are born in the mind, and the voices that we hear help to reinforce their presence and the damaging influence they exert. Their influence can stop us doing the right things, like getting on with the job or going to that meeting, focussing instead on negative actions like things going wrong, what people will think of the individual, how they will judge or even in extremes ‘catastrophizing’ scenarios out of all control and reason. This creates a paralysis stopping the individual mobilising in the right direction, often that direction can be the front door of their own home and into their place of employment, such is the intensity of the dread.  Funny thing is, (and dread has a shitty sense of humour) if the individual actually gets on with things and works through the dread, they often look back philosophically and wonder either what all the fuss was about, or start to worry about the next time something like this is going to occur, especially when working in a role with repeated phases, such as deadlines or target based roles.

Help is at Hand, and it is all in the Mind…

So what is the solution? Is there one? Or two? I have been looking into the concept of Mindfulness. Sounds a bit woolly if you have not been exposed to it, but basically, it is defined online as 1.the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something and 2. A mental state achieved by focussing one’s awareness of the present moment, while calmly acknowledging one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. In short I see it as living in the moment, if you feel a certain way, don’t try and run from it, live it, feel it and experience it.  That way, good or bad, you may have a chance of paying attention and recognising before it happens and create diversions moving forward or even to experience it again, taking from it something that can make things feel less traumatic or conversely even more magical.

We Can All Turn…

Quite often the ‘walking dread’ can creep up on you and ‘turn you’ without you even noticing it, a bit like when you read a book, you suddenly find yourself at then end of the page, knowing you have read or looked at every word but not taken in a single one. You think how did I get there? Well the simple answer is you weren’t paying attention.  If we pay attention, consciously, to what is going on around us, not in a paranoid way but in a more aware way, we can learn to respond in a more considered and constructive way and help to either approach the dread in a different way, or avoid it all together. Many ways there.

So far, when looking at sites online and reading books, the outlook is quite positive, and whilst the way we anticipate scenarios into dread won’t always go away, the benefits of using ‘mindfulness’ as a technique can include the ‘paying attention bit’ and being more aware, allowing people the chance to slow down, pause and take a breath, so that the response is more measured resulting in a constructive and balanced view moving towards and into situations that traditionally would have left us feeling uncomfortable or in extremes stressed.

Don’t Take My Word for It, Read It For Yourself.

Go online and look up the concept of ‘mindfulness’, have an open mind and look at what it offers, you may well find yourself in a position to accept something new, and approach your own personal ‘walking dread’ with a healthier level of ‘anticipation’ maybe even ‘excitement’ (easy there Simon one thing at a time). To start you off, have a look at the Ruby Wax Ted talk or her book Sane New World.  These were insightful, considered and really very good.  Look at emotional intelligence sites that can guide you through some of the key elements of self-awareness and self-regulation.  Often these elements can really make a difference to your own behaviour.

Some Extra Pointers…

If you are in situation where you feel these feelings building up, remember a few key things.

  1. The voices in your head are your own, no one else’s. Do not look to apportion blame to anyone, including you.
  2. Learn to say and listen to these three little words; IT DOESN’T MATTER.
  3. If your dread is people based, it is important to make the distinction that these people are not making you feel this way, you are.  People do not make you feel anything; you decide how to feel as result of their behaviour.
  4. Try to find someone who can listen to you, not just someone who will agree but someone who you can trust to challenge you as well as offer support. A professional counsellor, your GP or perhaps someone who has been in a similar experience to you that can offer reason and rationality, therefore silencing the voices and halting the walking dread.
  5. If your feelings of dread relate to work, make an attempt to contextualize what is going on, there has to be some pressure and intensity with any job, it is a natural thing, so look at the patterns of frequency, the intensity and the duration and look to adapt.
  6. Don’t think you are alone, you are not, many people go through this dread, they just either, put it to one side and power through it, or they are simply better adjusted at keeping a lid on it. When I say better adjusted, this doesn’t mean that you there is something wrong with you, it is just perhaps something you have not had to deal with before or a habit that you have developed that is difficult to kick.
  7. Running away from a potentially dread-inducing situation is not the answer. A bit like horrible tasks, if you put them off, they are still there. Far better to face them, challenge them, own them and look to change they way you feel about them.
  8. If we lived in world with no stress, no pressure, no tension, it would probably be quite dull, and we would all wither away in a world of tedium, that world would be called ‘Planet Nice’ (Oh how I hate the word ‘nice’ it reminds me of those beige, sugary biscuits with the same name.) Not the solution I know, but a way of looking at things.

Stop it in its Tracks…

So to conclude; any situation can have the potential to be pressurised, leading to us having feelings of worry that are negative and building a sense of dread.  This in turn causes anxiety to rise up. The quote at the beginning of this little blog says that we create things twice, once in the mind and then in reality.  If we turn the negative thoughts into a self fulfilling prophecy the outcome can only be detrimental.  However, if we can acknowledge pressure as a something that just happens and is a natural thing, exercise some control, and discipline, perhaps add a splash of positivity then we can look to change these thoughts, so that whilst we may not be able to completely eradicate the dread, we can at least make progress in stopping it from being an all consuming monster, taking over our days and nights, turning us into quite literally ‘the walking dread’.

Thank you for reading…if you like this then check out my other blog about stress “I am not f****ing Stressed”.

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