One of the key processes that has helped me conquer stress and transform anxiety in life has been popping up in nearly every interview I’ve done lately (some yet to be released– our editors are working on those!). It’s this idea that if you focus on only the things that are within your sphere of influence, most of that anxiety and stress melts away.
It’s related to getting present. What is actually happening right here and right now?
We dive into that topic and I share some examples of how this has played out in big ways for me in my own life.
3 Steps to Conquer Stress and Transform Anxiety
In this episode, we’re going to cover stress and specifically stress about things not changing or things, not turning out the way that you want them to turn out.
This can be very applicable to business owners. It can be very applicable to activists. It can be very applicable, applicable to anybody. Really. There is so many things that are outside of our control in life. One of the most impactful pieces of philosophy that I have come across is stoicism and stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy.
It’s been. Well also was practiced and studied and build upon and ancient Rome and continues to be built upon to this day. It shares a lot in common with Buddhism, which is interesting. And the main, one of the main tenants, there’s many, many, many pieces of, uh, of stoicism and Buddhism. One of the main tenants of both philosophies is that you cannot, that control everything and it’s pointless to stress and to allow.
The things that you cannot control to control you to cause stress to cause anxiety. And obviously that’s so much easier said than done, but the first step is recognizing that you do have control of some things. And instead of focusing on the points of weakness, the points where you don’t have any control, focus on the places where you do have control.
The counter to this often, and I’ve read, there’s an article and I’ll see if I can link it in the show notes below. There’s an article that criticizes stoicism specifically in regards to modern politics and to the way that we deal with activism and change that we make in our country. And I completely think that the author misses.
The point of stoicism, which may be some people do take it the way that the author is covering, but basically the point that the author is getting to is that they perceive Trump as such an existential threat, which you know, that to me already says like, okay, this is a, uh, overly political piece. I obviously don’t agree with a lot of the things Trump does, but I do think the media plays up how terrible things are.
Because, you know, it gets some clicks, it gets some views, it gets them yeah. Stuff to interact with. And I mean, okay. Let’s, let’s just take the viewpoint that you do. I think that the president is this absolute monster and needs to be stopped at all costs. Let’s say, you know, maybe if you’re on the other side, you thought Obama was that maybe you’re not even from the United States, but you have some kind of relevant.
Experience, this kind of thing happens a lot all over the world all the time and all throughout history. And actually stoicism was developed in ancient Rome. A large part of it was developed in ancient Rome, by somebody, people that are there. One famous stoke philosopher was a emperor and one was a free slave.
So, I guess it runs the gamut of people that this can apply to. So as you know, a freed slave, the whole idea of the philosophy was that you’re living under this authoritarian rain, and you can do what you can do about it. And it’s not worth suffering so much over the things that you can’t control. Now, how does this apply to today is I I’d like to the first point out that I’m going to in a couple minutes circle back around and scale this way back, because I think, you know, talking about it at the national level or at the international level is not the topic necessarily that I want to dive into.
I want to talk about how this applies to even the little things that we’re dealing with in our everyday lives, but on a national level. Because this is relevant constantly, whether you think that the president is evil or the senators are evil, whatever things that are going wrong, that you can’t control.
What I think the framework of stoicism allows you to do, and you don’t even have to call us to us as, and let’s just pull it back to focusing on the things that you can control. That’s the one tenant that I’m really concerned with at this point, that philosophy allows you to be much more effective. It allows you to pay attention to the things that you do have control over.
For example, you can go out and vote. You have control over that to a degree in most places in the world, you can talk to people you can yeah. Research and learn about the, the pilot takes it. You care about. You can talk to people that are likely to vote, maybe help people go out and vote. There’s all kinds of things that you can do to actually help influence the election without railing and railing against how horrible things are and how the world is ending.
And just living in this constant state of this is too much. This is overwhelming focus, less on what, you know, the bad people are doing it more on. How can I figure out a way to do something about it? For example, human trafficking is an absolutely horrible stain in our humanity. Unfortunately, it’s been going on forever and it’s going to be difficult to completely eradicate, but I think, you know, more than anything else, that’s something that really does need our attention.
And it’s not okay to just sit back and say, ah, someone else take care of it at the same time. If you allow yourself to be completely consumed by how horrible this is. Yeah, this is happening, which first of all, this has never not been happening. Unfortunately that’s just the state corrupt and a damaged human beings.
They do this to other human beings. The things that you can control, you can donate to organizations that are doing good work. You can help support technology. That’s being used to help decrease a human trafficking to track. Cases of it and identify where people are when they get camera footage, there’s all kinds of different technology being implemented.
Now you could even figure out what the actual problems are, where are there gaps that need solved and dedicate yourself to figuring that out. If you let’s say you have a job and you don’t love your job and you have time in the evening or on the weekend, even a couple hours every day, even an hour, every day, you could learn a lot about.
How you could help and actually help rather than sitting and watching Netflix. And I always trashed on sitting and knock, knock watching Netflix. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with consuming media. It’s just, when you consume media in excess, you’re wasting your life. You’re wasting the things that you could be doing about all of these things that make you anxious.
And I get it. We go to media, we zone out, we drink, we do all of these things to escape. From all of the stresses, but when you start to rework the framework of your mind, then you feel, and you start to actually become in more control of the things that are causing stress. So let’s circle back to. Everyday life for most of us, this might be an entrepreneur.
I know a lot of you listening are business owners, entrepreneurs, you might be a professional. You might be, you know, quite a few of you are actually felons people that have different charges. Cause you’re recovering addicts and you did something at some point that put you into the criminal justice system and there’s.
Plenty of frustrating things about that and, and dealing with that and readjusting back into society. All of those are great examples of times in your life that are going to be stressful. And you’re going to want there to be an end to it. As an entrepreneur, there’s constantly dislike carrot dangling in front of you.
When I just get to this point, I will stop having problems is, uh, something that I hear a lot of. Entrepreneurs say, I think when they say it out loud, they realize that’s just not the case and any entrepreneur that has been around for a long time. Any business owner that’s been around for a long time, knows that every time you solve one problem, 10 more come up and you have to learn.
I don’t think you naturally have to love that circumstance, but you have to learn to at least somewhat find some kind of joy in the problem solving and in, in that piece of it, because it’s never going to go away. That’s something you don’t have any control over. You don’t have any control over you’re.
You’re not, you’re most likely not going to be able to just sit on a beach, sipping martinis or whatever people do. I don’t know because you run a business unless you exit at some point, but those things are all things that are slightly out of your control. What you can control is, you know, solving the problems that are right in front of you.
Don’t lament over the fact that the problems exist, especially now with COVID. You can’t do anything about that. And I get it. It sucks. Sucks for all of us. But that’s just the state of the world and COVID hadn’t happened. Something else would happen. Something always happens. And we get so caught up, up in this drama of like, Oh, woe is me.
This horrible thing has happened. Humans throughout history have had, it’s so much worse. And we even if they didn’t, even if it was worse now than it had ever been, all you can do is all you can do, which is actually a lyric by a rapper. I really like a musician. I really like Watsky. All you can do is all you can do.
And. There’s so much truth to that. And once you start implementing that in your life, it might sound so simple and so stupid right now, if you’re listening to this and you’re like, well, yeah, duh, but think about it. How does that really apply to your everyday life? How often are you taking a stressful situation and saying, okay, what can I actually do about that?
This, because when you do that, the stress starts to transmute. The stress starts to. Turn into energy that you can use to solve that problem. Anxiety is not much different physiologically then excitement. And obviously it’s not as easy as just flipping a switch and saying, well, this anxiety is now excitement.
Sometimes it can be, that’s actually helpful to do that, but if you take something that you’re anxious about and you take action, then. That anxiety does turn into energy, positive forward momentum, some kind of energy. Now, how does this apply if you’re not a business owner, if you were, you know, maybe working at a grocery store or as a lunch lady, I don’t know.
There again are going to be things in your life that are not in your control. Maybe right now, especially a lot of people are going through, you know, uncertainty about work. And this is all, this is all focused on work right now, but it doesn’t have to be about work. It can be your relationship. It can be your living situation.
There’s so many, so many things, your car breaks down. A good example of this is last year I was living in my car. It, um, was on purpose. A lot of people, you know, are like, Oh man, I’m sorry. You know, you were homeless. And I was like, well, I actually, uh, have a home in Pennsylvania and I chose to hit the road and live in my car and.
I had a van too, at one point, but I chose the car instead because it was a little more lean. I could go camp stealthily, like camping in a city, a parking lot, or something really easily along the side of the road really easily. And I had a bed. It was really comfortable actually for me, I loved it. I was like loving my life.
But then in Utah, I wrecked it. I wrecked my car. So I also, you know, At the same time wreck my home. I ran into someone who was driving very, very slow in front of me in his defense. He was on a donut. I really think he should have had his emergency lights on, but he was young. We all make stupid mistakes.
And I mean, I made a stupid mistake. I was driving and I wasn’t paying enough attention to the road. It was late at night and I was tired and I probably should have not pushed myself to drive that far. And. Anyway, I hit this kid and we both, both of our cars were totaled. Thankfully, neither of us are hurt and we’re standing there talking and he is freaking out obviously.
And he was also living in his car. He was traveling to go to his family, but he was living in his car. So both of us had just lost our homes, lost our cars, had this really, you know, Uh, shaky event and, and, you know, that’s obviously a little traumatic. Any car accident is he looks at me and he goes, how are you so calm right now?
And my answer was that, you know, I practice meditation. I, I study stoicism. I mean, my, my simple answer was meditation. That’s kind of the first step. A lot of times is being aware of your thoughts when they start to get out of control, but you don’t even have to implement the meditation part, just implementing this.
Okay, this thing has happened. Let me take some deep breaths and let me think, what do I do now? You know, so I called the police. They came out and, you know, we got everything sorted out. It took a long time and you know, it sucked, it really, really sucked for both of us. And the, the, the, the police officer was the same police officers was willing, coolest state police officers I’ve ever met.
He was like, you guys. Are so lucky cause the people that the two of you wrecked into the coolest people ever, because you’re both just so calm about this. And I’m kind of laughing to myself because that kid was not calm when it first happened, but I think my energy calmed him down. Cause he was like, you’re right.
There is nothing I can do about this. This really sucks. But, uh, you know, that’s just, it is what it is. And then the police officer took that a kid to the next town, bought him a Greyhound ticket out of his own pocket and send them to Las Vegas where his family was from. Super nice. It didn’t have to do that.
And it just goes to show like, you know, if he was freaking out and he was yelling at people and, and pointing fingers and everything, then, you know, I don’t know if that would happen, but everything was so calm. And we were just talking through me, him and the police officer were all just talking through, how do we solve this?
What do we do now? How do we get a tow truck out here? Where do we tow to? Cause we’re literally out in the middle of nowhere in Utah, that whole thing. Then, you know, I go to Utah, I’m stuck in Moab for like two weeks. Which is a little tiny tourist town. Everything’s like $300 a night to stay there. It was just like, could be very, very anxiety ridden.
And I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t feel any anxiety, but anytime anxiety came up, I said, okay, what can I do about this right now? And I would do the things that I knew that I could do about it. I could call my insurance agency. I could go out to the, I could rent a car and I could go out to the.
In pounds to get the stuff out of my car, I could do what I could do. I could keep working cause I needed to make money. And luckily I worked for my laptop and obviously I came from, I was in a very privileged position. I had a lot of credit card, uh, availability. I used a lot of it because of that, but, um, I also was still making money.
I was still able to work because I work off my laptop and those are things not everyone can say. And I get that. I still think that that is truly a Testament to. That was an incredibly, potentially stressful situation. And honestly, it didn’t feel that bad because I had learned how to just take things in stride and it felt really good to take action and, and to, to move through the problem and try to figure out what is it that I can do about it.
What’s the next step? Just keep moving. What’s the next step. And even if the next step is, I just gotta wait. There were plenty of times where I was sitting in the lab and I was just waiting. Days and days and days for an answer from my insurance agency, because they were in Pennsylvania and they don’t actually have any coverage in Utah.
So it was this whole thing. They had to find another third party. It happened on a weekend. So I had to wait days for that. So that’s a personal story that I think I’ve told at least in part on the podcast before. But I wanted to, you know, maybe tell a story and exactly give an example of how this stuff can apply in your life.
And it wasn’t that in that moment, that was the first time that I practiced any kind of equanimity, any kind of controlling what I have control over and controlling my emotions. That was something that I had been practicing for quite a while, because naturally I’m a very anxious person. One of the most impactful things I think I’ve ever heard was on Sam Harris’s podcast, who is a neuroscientist, you said physiologically.
So chemically in the body. Anxiety is not different than excitement. It’s cortisol, uh, and among some other chemicals. And it’s, it’s a little, it’s complicated. Obviously everything is complicated when it comes to the brain. But basically what he was saying was, you know, if you can take that energy, it’s just energy.
You can use that energy in a positive manner. And that’s a really amazing thing. It’s this weird thing where you’re able to calm down and then. Assess the situation and then act and use that anxious energy to act. The hardest part is definitely calming down because your adrenaline is rushing. Your cortisol has spiked.
You know, maybe you just lost your job, your significant other broke up with you or cheated on you or who knows what happened. That’s so bad, but. The first step is to separate yourself from it too. If you’re around other people and things are getting heated, separate yourself from that situation, if you can, uh, or emotionally try to separate yourself from it, and this takes practice, but you slow yourself down and deep breaths can really help with that.
You just take a few deep breaths in and take really, you know, you breathe in as deeply as you can. Hold it in for a moment and you release and you feel where you feel tension in your body. I don’t want to get too woo on you. But you know, in a literal sense, like, you know, you might have back tension as you relax, as you breathe out, you breathe out that tension and, and you’ll feel it in your body.
And you might have to do that multiple times. One, two, three, four, five times. Oftentimes one or two times is enough to calm me down. I get very anxious and stressed. Sometimes. Step is second skin. I do it very fast the first time, just to kind of like reset my system. Uh, and then breathe out and then, and then breathe in and then breathe out nice and slow.
So you get the point there. The point is. To breathe deeply. And it helps if you practice this when things aren’t so bad, go practice it right after you listen to this podcast because in those circumstances, then once things do get stressful, then you can easily call upon that skill. So once you breathe deeply and you’ve calmed yourself down, you’ve separated yourself from the stressful situation.
Even if let’s say it’s a more of an existential stress like business, where there’s these problems going on. Still separate yourself emotionally from the situation. Just calm down. You say, I don’t need to solve this right this second. It’s not going to get fixed this second. And that’s okay. So let me calm down and let me think, okay.
What can I do about this now? So that’s the next step. Once you’ve calmed down, you’ve separated yourself from the situation wherever you can, whether it’s emotionally or intellectually or actual physical separation. Once you’ve done that, then. You write on a piece of paper, this is very helpful to write it down.
What can I do about this right now? And then you just write it out and you, and you get really real. I could panic whatever. I can do this and then make an action plan and say, okay, you know, that starts to immediately feel empowering. It’s like, okay. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. And when you see it written out, that’s why I say to write it out.
It’s helpful because you kind of are able to judge it as if someone else is saying it to you because when you’re reading it, you’re, you’re writing it. You’re you’re expressing it. But then you’re also reading it back to yourself when you’re reading it on the piece of paper. So you’re able to read it and assess.
Is that really something that I have control over? Is that really something that I have, the resources and the capability and the bandwidth to do. And if it’s not. You know, often I’ll write things down that I don’t have the resources to do. You know, my, my first response is just write it out. And then I look at that and I say, Oh, I actually don’t think I can do that.
Or at least I can’t do that right now. So what can I do right now? Times its weight. It’s the hardest thing, but it, sometimes it is to wait. Okay. That can feel very empowering in and of itself. Whenever you have something that’s out of your control, it feels so stressful. It feels like I gotta get this figured out right now.
If you just wait. If you say, okay, I have food in the fridge right now. If I don’t, I got to go to the food pantry or the grocery store. I got food in the fridge right now. Uh, I have a roof over my head, you know, that’s the basic necessities. Even if you’re a banker, I’ve had situations when I was starting my business where my bank account was overdrawn by like hundreds of dollars.
And it would be overdrawn for a week, which is so stressful because it’s adding on to the, the debt every single day. That was again, one of those times where it’s like, okay, This is, this is testing you. There’s nothing I can do. There’s literally nothing I can do about that. Right now. I’ve done work.
People owe me money. They’re not paying me so I can reach out every day and say, Hey, um, are you going to pay me? And, you know, in that specific situation, someone had gone bankrupt that I was working for a, one of the clients. One of my biggest clients had gone bankrupt. So I was never going to see that money.
So there was nothing I could do about that. I was waiting to check from another client. It was in the mail. So it was just a matter of days and that wasn’t going to cover much, but it was going to get me, you know, in the, in, in the black again on my bank account. And really, it was just, okay, I gotta wait until that check comes.
I can’t do anything else. I can do some other work. So I, you know, I started finding some more work, but really the biggest part was, you know, you can’t work all day every day. So eventually it was just like, okay, I gotta wait. I gotta slow down. And I gotta wait. And it worked out and it is great now.
Because I’ve learned how to wait, when things get super stressful, instead of trying to, and take action where I can take action. So it’s kind of this game where you start to learn, okay, now it’s time to wait. Now it’s time to act, but there’s no room in that equation for just like freaking out. And most of us before we really understand any of this are just in a state of freaking out most of the time.
A lot of the time, and then that’s why we drink. That’s why we do drugs. That’s why we go party. That’s why we sit in front of the TV all day, because we’re just so stressed that we’re just like, I just need to escape this life. But this life is amazing. There’s so many cool things to do that don’t include going in and getting super the knee rated or vegging out in front of the TV.
There’s so many cool things that you can go out and do. There’s so many cool things that you can do. Just sitting around thinking and reading. There’s so many amazing things you can read. There’s no need to be free. And that is where I just wanted to take this. So if you’re in business, you know, and things are stressful, just stick with it.
Just do what you can while you can. There’s no end. Everything is constant. Everyone says this is a means to the end. There is no end. Everything is one means into another means into another means into another means, because things just continue. That is a fact of life for, you know, foreseeable future things will just continue until they don’t and it’s, whatever is going to cause life to not continue is not going to be your fault.
It’s not going to be within your control at all. So all you can do is do the things that you can do in your life and take that one step at a time. Calm down, try to relax, try to separate yourself. Take a deep breath. Separate yourself. And think what can I do now? And then do the things that you can do.
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Okay. That’s what it’s about. If it’s interesting, you click through and you listen to it, save it for later, whatever you want to do, but that is on the happy you are here. Dot life website, which you can find out in the show notes below. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you for sticking around and being here this whole time.
And it’s been really awesome to make so many connections with so many of you through the Facebook group, through Instagram, wherever you’re you want to connect with me? The host Craig and Zana. Um, it’s awesome. And I mean, even people that are within my network, friends, you know, you know who you are. That have listened to the show since the beginning.
Like thank you so much. It means the world to me to be able to help people. And when I get messages like, Hey, this episode right here, this like changed my life, or this helped me with this specific problem. That is the greatest thing ever. I’ve also started coaching a little bit. I don’t want that to me, my main business, at least not now.
It feels amazing though, to be able to help people through really stressful situations. There’s a lot of what I do is stress management, doing exactly what we talked about in this episode, walking you through that, being that person that you, you can call when things get stressful, you can lean on the advice that I gave you.
And some of the worksheets that I gave you, some journaling prompts to teach you how to do all of that. If you’re interested that stuff’s all on the happy you were here, dot life website as well. And that the reason I’m bringing that up is not to try to push that. The reason I’m bringing that up is because it feels so amazing to be able to help people in such a practical way.
You know, I always, I’ve always been very interested in psychology and neuroscience. Obviously. That’s a lot of the stuff that we talk about in this show. And I thought for the longest time that, you know, we’re going to be able to participate and actually help people within this space because. College is just not something that I’m good at.
I learned from reading books, I learned from talking to people I learned from experience. I learned so much through reading books. I had an interview yeah. With a psychologist, a psychiatrist, sorry. Uh, a couple of weeks ago. And she on her podcast was like, I think she was asking me where I went to graduate school, something like that.
And I kind of laughed because not even close, I have an associates degree in movie-making actually in the business of movie-making, but yeah, I mean, I’ve just read so much and listened to so many podcasts and talk to so many incredible professionals and worked with so many people now and worked with myself for so long in such extreme circumstances that I just have an innate experiential understanding of these things.
And it’s so awesome to be able to still be participating. Somewhat in the space of help in the space of mental health help. And, you know, I’m not capable of handling like really extreme mental illnesses, but anxiety is something that I can at least work with somebody and say, okay, I mean, a couple of people that I’ve worked with, it’s been okay.
He really need to see a therapist. Let me help you get a hold of the therapist because that’s such a annoyingly difficult process sometimes too. So. Those things have all been possible because your listeners to the podcast, because this podcast is continuing to grow. So again, if you value this show, please leave a review wherever you can, whether that’s on Facebook or Apple podcast and check out the newsletter on the happy you are here, dot life episode, and importantly, just come back and listen to some more episodes.
Thank you so much. You have a great day.