On a sunny Thanksgiving day in 2019, I was rushing out of town to see my family when I felt my anxiety levels rising. Running late, (later than usual) and controlling stress was the last thing on my mind.
With a lack of presence, worrying about the future as I sped down the highway, I felt my cortisol spiking. I was far from being mindful in any way of stress management.
I could already hear my Mothers voice playing out in my head. “Why don’t you give yourself some extra time so you’re not so late? So you don’t have to rush and be so stressed out?”
Halfway to my destination, in a fraction of a second, my heart drops and adrenaline shoots through the roof. Immense clouds of thick white smoke are billowing through my AC vents. My eyes dart over at the thermostat to see that it’s completely maxed out.
The Stress you Can’t Control
Moving at 110 km/h with the visibility dropping fast, I hit my hazard lights and lowered all four windows. Clearly, stress levels were peaking, as I did my best to safely cut across 3 lanes of traffic into the shoulder.
Surrounded by other drivers, I probably looked like an ignorant pot-head that “hotboxed” his car and lost control.
In all seriousness though, my instinctual survival stress mechanism of the SNS (the good ole fight or flight response) was in full swing.
With anxiety at its peak, fearing my car was on fire, I jumped out taking a healthy amount of steps away… Well, more like a dozen meters I couldn’t help but sprint at top speed.
Immediately, a heavy-flowing green fluid near the front of my 23-year-old Saab caught my attention. At this point, I knew there wasn’t a fire. With my heart still racing, lifting the hood for inspection as cars zoomed past on the highway, I could tell that some part of the cooling system had blown.
I was plunging further out of the present and into future worries raising my stress levels higher. Worrying about towing fees, vehicle repairs, and of course, being far beyond late to Thanksgiving dinner. I wasn’t going to make it at all.
Clearly, at this moment, I was filled with erratic emotions. I wasn’t able to control the stress, anger and anxiety expanding in my thoughts and coursing through my body.
But there, in that sublime moment of realization, I remembered author Hal Elrod’s 3 magical words:
“Can’t Change It”
Managing Stress With 3 Words?
While everything seemed to come to an impossible standstill , I took this moment to say it out loud; “I definitely CAN’T CHANGE THIS.”
Still quivering from the adrenalin flowing through my veins, my mind tried to fight what I was actively doing. Perpetuating the well-rooted autopilot program of being hyper stressed. Trying to pull me into deeper thoughts of self-pity and worry.
In truth, after speaking those words it was becoming clearer that continuing to be upset about it served no useful purpose.
So I simply said, “NO, not today.”
Getting back into the quieter environment of my broken down car, I felt a wave of calm flowing down my body. I understood the power of these words in how they can help with controlling stress.
It’s not about dealing with the “stress bull” via grabbing it by the horns and pinning it down.
No, It’s about realizing the power we have to see the other side of the situation. The clear blessings that we’re completely blind to when the emotions of stress are playing on repeat.
In this case, while I had much to dislike:
I was breathing, in one piece, no drivers were hurt, and most clear of all; My mind was present enough understand and appreciate this.
Of course, you don’t have to go in this direction.
You could keep perpetuating what’s already happened and really start blowing it out of proportion, but at what cost?
Controlling Stressful Situations is a MUST
As humans, we have this very destructive ability to keep replaying through stressful experiences. Even those that may have never happened to us. Worries that further stimulate and actually guide our stress levels in the wrong direction.
This is where the trouble lies.
Our minds can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t. The same stress-response chemicals are secreted as if you’re living the event in real-time.
This brings to mind a quote from one of Dr. Joe Dispenza’s books
” Thoughts are the language of the brain and feelings are the language of the body.”
-Dr. Joe Dispenza
Your body then, in its active fight or flight mechanism is physically living through stressful experiences. The perfect cocktail to spike cortisol, raise blood pressure, reduce immunity, generate anxiety, increase risks of stress-related diseases…
Need I go on?
Using these 3 words is about understanding that while we may not be able to change the situation that’s occurred, we have complete control over how we respond and how we react to it. Thus, managing our stress levels in a more emotionally intelligent way.
In a new way that begins to influence plasticity within our brain to create new pathways for stress management.
Doesn’t this type of predictability sound far better than becoming part of the growing statistics of stress-related illnesses?
Stress Management Tools
Of course, you can read books on this or get a “keep calm” wrist band to remind you.
The one elephant in the room though that affects nearly 50% of the North American population is having a deficiency in magnesium. Research shows that magnesium deficiencies can increase anxiety and impact numerous bodily processes that affect how we respond to and manage stress.
It’s important to note that magnesium and ashwagandha supplementation do take time to build up in the body for noticeable effects. For this reason, and a few others L-Theanine is an absolute staple in my medicine cabinet and daily supplementation.
In particular, since that thanksgiving day, I always carry it with me. It’s the perfect immediate-response, healthy supplemental aid to manage stressful emergencies.
The Best Daily Exercise for Stress
Developing a meditation practice, a time that you specifically spend in silence is going to play a big role.
Of course, I’m not going to sugarcoat the difficulties you’ll come across in silencing the mind daily for a short period of time. But truth be told, over time, especially with situations like these you can really step back from the familiar responses that require no thought. Creating a greater level of control over your emotions and reactions, helping to aid with stress management.
So while these words may not seem magical to some of you, since you made it this far in the post one thing should be very clear;
You’re open to creating a new “active” approach versus the old predictably “passive” one.
This was actually a real experience, which I decided to lightly document as I waited for the tow truck and beyond…