When we feel stressed, or anxious about something, it’s often because we do not feel that we are in control. We associate our ability to control things with the feeling of certainty. Without this impression of certainty, we feel less safe, that our fates are at the mercy of outside forces. Like a kite spiraling inside the eye of a hurricane, or a swimmer caught in a riptide.
One of the things one gradually learns in the infancy of your career is how to differentiate between situations and/or problems that warrant your concern and those for which your concern is unnecessary. This is important because our energy is finite.
My mind tends to provoke itself with many anxieties and as a result, it’s often a challenge to negotiate between which ones are superfluous fictions for which the idea of control is an illusion, those that are worth worrying about but for which I have little ability to control, and those which I can realistically address.
For example, perhaps on a particularly rainy morning, my tram is running a few minutes late and as a result, I may be delayed in getting to work on time. Obviously, there is little I can do to control the punctuality of the Luas tram in such weather, but I can spare being prepared 10 minutes earlier than usual each day as a form of insurance.
Though, on the odd occasion that your routine is interrupted by some unusual circumstance, one realizes how illusory your idea of control really is. You may forget in such moments how many of the beats of your day are at the mercy of circumstances that you have no control over, and it’s necessary to moderate your own impression of being in control so that you do not overexert yourself in the case of unforeseen circumstance.
Learning to recognize and acknowledge the illusory idea of control is difficult. One may overcompensate when confronted by this uncertainty by trying to further extend your control over a particular situation, which is a recipe for stress.
I like the analogy of the sea. Imagine your mind is a great ocean in which the crest and troughs of waves, representing fleeting thoughts, swell in and out of existence. It is your choice, should you choose to ride a particular wave, whether you will fight against it and in so doing expend your precious energy or whether you will simply let it carry you until it gently dissipates.
Being mindful of this transitory nature of thoughts is a skill one should try to practice, to properly manage stress.