Stressing Is Not a Strategy
The other night as I laid in bed, pretending to try and fall asleep, my mind began to look ahead to the following day. My brain was laying out various options of courses of action to take, of how my affairs for the day may play out. It was playing the tape through, on what essentially amounted to fictional scenarios, none of which ended up actually taking place. As I lay there in the dark, I suddenly realized this was not strategy — this was stress.
Planning ahead is a necessity, yet we have so little control over what actually takes place. We tell ourselves if we try and play out every possible scenario, factoring in every variable, then and only then will we be truly prepared to handle what lies in front of us. Be it a tough conversation, an upcoming job interview, a first date, how to deal with a difficult client or person in our lives or just a personal problem we’ve managed to acquire — stressing about it leads you in the opposite direction of progress. It sends you into the woods alone, rather than out of them.
Stress has an extremely detrimental effect on our minds and bodies which is ironic considering its purpose is to keep us safe and out of harm’s way. What good does it really do to try and mentally prepare for an event that’ll probably never happen? To borrow an idea from the author James Altucher, very few of the things we worry about in the middle of the night ever come true.
I’ve never read about a single person whose best course of action to take suddenly came to them in the middle of the night. I’m sure it happens occasionally, epiphanies exist I suppose.
But what happens more frequently I imagine is, we just needlessly freak ourselves out and are unable to fall back into a sound sleep. Then, we have to go deal with whatever it is we stressed half the night about on a lack of sleep. Leaving us far worse off than if we had just simply quieted our minds, trusted in the universe and ourselves, got a sound night of sleep and dealt with whatever the next day brought as best we could.
I’m qualified to write this article because I spent half my life worrying about shit that never happened. Always from a skewed and stressed out, cortisol induced perspective. I think I honestly used to believe doing so was beneficial. It was as if I told myself if I just stressed long enough about whatever it was I was worried about, I’d eventually stumble upon a winning strategy. I never did, I just lost a lot of sleep and visually aged quicker than I would have. To quote the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, “Nobody knows enough to be a pessimist”.
Strategy allows us to be prepared for whatever we may face, stress just causes heart disease and coronary events that could have otherwise been avoided. Stress often immobilizes us, it fills us with fear, anxiety and self doubt.
The best strategy I’ve found, one I’ve found applicable to any situation — is simply not to stress about it. Tell yourself it will all work out how it’s supposed to. As the old saying goes, life is what happens to us as we make other plans.
So next time you find yourself hopelessly trying to develop strategy in the middle of the night, simply remind yourself you are not Napoleon and deal with life as it comes at you. Stressing is not a winning strategy, it’s a health hazard. One far worse for you than whatever it is you’re worried about.