The Paradox Of Acceptance: How to Manage Stress In The Moment

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Stress is a silent killer. But it’s something most of us ignore because we regularly experience it, but don’t recognise what it is. It’s just become part of our daily lives.

But this is not how it’s supposed to be. This is not how humans evolved to live.

Fight or Flight = The Sympathetic Nervous System

Evolutionarily speaking, for the first 250,000 years or so of human existence, what we today call stress was only brought on when there was a threat to your life. Living in our tribes and villages, life was simple. The only known existence was what we saw around us, and there was almost no need to consider anything outside of our own reality.

The stress signal was therefore only called upon when there was a real threat to life. Whether that be from hungry wild animals looking for their next meal, or the less rare attacks from outsiders.

As soon as danger was close, our bodies immediately moved into fight or flight mode, which literally means what it says: Our body would shut down all unnecessary systems such as our digestive system, whilst ramping up heart rate to pump blood into the muscles ready to fight or run.

Rest & Digest = The Parasympathetic Nervous System

The opposite of fight or flight, is rest and digest. The main purpose of this system is to conserve energy and allow your body to absorb nutrients and muscles to recover so you are better prepared for the need to fight when the time comes.

Evolutionary Ancestry vs  Modern Times

If you consider these two systems, you can imagine that evolutionarily speaking most of our day was spent in the parasympathetic state. Working on the farms, gathering fruits and seeds, and talking with neighbours. Prior to the agricultural revolution, hunters would have been out hunting. But as they were the hunters, they were focused on tracking the prey rather than being attacked by predators.

But in these modern times we are bombarded with continuous stress signals. Examples of these modern day stressors are traffic incidents when somebody cuts in front of you; an email from an angry manager, colleague or customer; the worry about making the next payment and having enough for food on the table; a new war breaking out; stock market crashes; and many other things out of your control.

These feelings in your gut and body are continuous attacks of stress. They work along the exact same pathways inside your body as our ancestors had when their lives were genuinely under threat.

Chronic Stress

This continuous bombardment of the stress signals is what builds up chronic stress. Chronic meaning something which is continuous. Whereas acute stress is something you feel in the moment, manage, and then disappears.

How To Handle Modern Day Stressors

I learned about this quite early in my health journey, maybe around 2017 when I started listening to Mind Pump. Once I understood it, once I understood what that mechanism was and that feeling of tension rising from the gut, and/or sweats kicking in, and/or (more relevant to me) extreme anger rising through my whole body to be released, I began to learn how to dampen that signal down.

Deep breathing is a great mechanism to reduce the stress signal. I would take 3-10 deep slow breaths, depending how long it took to calm me down. This would give me time to recognise what was happening, realise it was not a threat to my life, and calm myself back down into the parasympathetic state.

The Paradox Of Acceptance

By breathing and recognising what has happened, your body and mind accept the situation. And by accepting the stressful situation (which over time and practise you realise is not actually stressful), you regain control of yourself to remain in the parasympathetic state and stop that deadly chronic stress.

The thought process goes something like this:

  1. We have a problem.
  2. We are not in control of that problem.
  3. We are not perfect, but we deserve to be at peace.
  4. Oh, that problem was not a problem at all. 

Resource: What Most People Think: It’s Going To Be Trump

I had never heard of the terminology Paradox of Acceptance until recently listening to a Geoff Norcott podcast who brings this up during his solo show on the political takes of the week. Geoff is a fantastic communicator, and along with Konstantin Kisin and Francis Foster, are my two main sources for news and current affairs.

As I’ve said many times before, and will repeat many times after, stay away from the mainstream media. I’ve been off it for 7 years, and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. The constant bombardment of negative news are like mini shots of stress, continuously firing into your body wearing you down without even realising it.

By staying away from mainstream media and freeing your mind from negativity, you will have more brain space to create ideas and think about important issues in your life. Issues you can actually control. Whereas politics is something you cannot control.

As business people we need to be aware of the main issues of the day. But we do not need it repeated into our ears and eyes continuously through rolling news and bulletins. Mainstream media does not have balanced discussions about issues and do not discuss nuances. They have their own agenda, and sell their product through fear and negativity. As an example, a conflict that’s been happening for 5000 years is not going to be summarised in a 30 second soundbite. So dig deep and educate yourself by listening to open discussions from all sides.

My choices for current affair information are WMPT, Triggernometry, and the Joe Rogan podcast, where you receive balanced, open and long form discussions on the issues of the day. Cut the negative fear mongering mainstream media from your life, remove chronic stress, and spend your time in the parasympathetic state of peace.

Live wiser, live stronger, live longer.

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