I’m a Stressed Out Citizen, Just Like You –
I’ve been working on a new book that will be a unique take on dealing with stress.
Unique in that, first of all, I’m not a doctor or leading researcher who’s discovered a magic pill for making stress go away and rainbows appear in its place.
Instead, I’m a stressed out citizen just like you, who happens to make his living as a comedian, author and speaker.
Despite the confident occupational act, lots of things stress me out.
And if the statistics are accurate, I’m far from alone. In fact, you may be in a similar position, living and working like you can handle it all, but underneath feeling overwhelmed, scared, worried and anxious about a lot of small details.
Stress Is Killing Us
I recently decided to do a little research by conducting a quick search on stress. “What kind of impact is it having on us as a culture?” is what I wanted to know.
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
Seven people die every two minutes from stress, and the majority of it is occupationally related. Turns out the workplace doesn’t just produce goods and services, it’s the manufacturing center for stress in the world.
And all of the above is only the medically correlated effects of stress.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 74 percent of people suffer from speech anxiety. I think we can safely assume there are a lot of things that aren’t getting said!
That means stress is not just leading to death, it’s killing our ability to fully enjoy and participate in the time we still have.
What can we do?
The Real Solution for Stress
I’ve been working on this new book idea for a year. And I keep procrastinating on getting it done. What I’m seeing via my self-observation is that I have some defensive habits that block my moving forward with the project. The defense habits are defenses against the discomfort of intrusive feelings.
Just knowing in my mind that intrusive feelings are the cause of my procrastination, however, makes zero difference.
Instead of blocking me, it then fuels me.
I’ve coined a term for this courageous action of “leaning toward.”
I call it Disruptive Mindfulness.
Here’s what disruptive mindfulness is and why I feel it’s so important.
The Engine of Disruptive Mindfulness
I sat down next to a young gentleman who looked like he wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be left alone, too, but the seats were all full and so I took the spot next to him.
Really, I had two choices: ignore him and say nothing for the 20-minute trip, or strike up a conversation.
Of course there’s no guarantee that he would want to talk, and the idea of trying to start a conversation and having the other person reject the overture is stressful. But just sitting four inches from another human being and trying to ignore them is stressful, too.
So I decided to take the risk and say hello. As it turns out, we had a lively and interesting conversation about stress!
He was traveling for work as well and on his way to sort out a mess with a construction project in another city. I talked about my book project and he wanted to know more and the twenty-minute ride felt like two minutes.
Had I just gritted my teeth and tried to ignore this person, it would have felt like two hours.
This is what most interests me.
The small little moments of our lives where intrusive feelings arise and we make the decision to avoid them—compounding our stress—and the opportunity we always have to transform them.
I’m fascinated by the huge openings and abundance of energy that become available to us when we act with disruptive mindfulness.
Disruptive mindfulness recognizes the fact that awareness alone is often not enough to loosen the grip of our old patterns. We need to practice behaving in ways that demonstrate the freedom we actually have to participate and act in our lives, even while these intrusive experiences arise.
The key is not to expect too much, but just make the effort to lean in a small way against the defensive habit of backing away from action and participation.
Awareness, coupled with the willingness to take action outside of limiting patterns, is the magic formula.
Disruptive Mindfulness: Presence combined with courageous action.
Claim Your Authority to Act
Freedom Habits are actions of disruptive mindfulness, and they’re how we can turn our stress around.
And that’s what I really want to write about.
I would love to hear any stories you have about practicing disruptive mindfulness yourself.
It’s helpful to hear of stories of triumph, having acted with courage to push past old limits. Even if it doesn’t bring about some dramatic result, you’re still a hero when you challenge your own withdrawal.
I had just published my first book, 7 Rules You Were Born to Break, and had a copy with me.
I waited until he got up to go to the bathroom and ambushed him as he returned to his seat.
I was fumbling, awkward, nervous, and shoved the book under his nose asking if he’d consider reading it and providing an endorsement. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said.
Poor guy obviously probably gets assaulted all the time for such requests, and no, I never heard from him. I do have the legitimate claim that he read part of my book—the title. He just didn’t finish it.
BUT I ASKED!
And you better believe that helps when the next opportunity comes by, because you’ve already demonstrated to your own unconscious that you have authority in your own life over those intrusive, limiting voices in your head.
And if you keep working it, some of your daring actions are going to pay off in big ways.
How about you? Do you have a story of disruptive mindfulness?