The year 2020 was all about surviving. Everything else was a waste of time.
This was the gist of an email I got from one of my readers. She is still employed, but it is a living hell for her because so many of her acquaintances have lost their jobs. She’s healthy, but that makes her feel bad because COVID-19 has claimed the lives of two family members.
On the plus side, because she’s no longer yearning for love, no one has shattered her heart. She’s conserving money because she doesn’t see the point in buying anything other than food and other necessities. She’s also given up on self-improvement, so she’s no longer disappointed with herself.
It would be an understatement to say she is tense and anxious. But her battle with stress and worry isn’t unique to her situation. Many people share this sentiment.
It occurred to me that there is a four-letter word that perfectly describes this moment in time: hope.
The Dark Year of Our Lord 2020 has revealed that hope is the emotion we most crave in life. We have no defence against despair, depression, or burnout if we don’t have it. The reason for this is that hope is about the future, not the nonsense that has already surfaced.
Hope necessitates two things: the desire to reach your goal and a plan for getting there. This is how hope differs from optimism, which is the conviction that things will work out in the end regardless of what you do.
Here’s how hope might help you cope with stress and anxiety:
- Hope serves as a reminder that more isn’t necessarily better.
A materialistic society is having a difficult time because the more we have, the less we rely on hope. We’ve already fluffed our nest and bought a brand-new automobile. Isn’t it true that whoever dies with the most toys wins the game of life? Except it’s a bit of a stretch, and 2020 has demonstrated that our possessions aren’t going to save us. The Band-Aid has been taken off, and we’ll need to rely on something more robust if we want a full recovery.
When we have nice things, we become emotionally attached to them and consider them to be a part of ourselves. Most of us are aware of our psychic ties to the things we’ve worked hard for and wisely invested in. Materialistic cultures really urge us to use consumption to express our identities.
More isn’t necessarily better, though. Here’s where things go horribly wrong: Loss aversion is a psychological phenomenon found by psychologists. It’s why the pain of losing our prized possessions seems to outweigh the pleasure of obtaining them. This answer is encoded into our brain by some wicked quirk of nature, so good luck pretending you’re the exception.
Materialism has the ability to consume us from the inside out. Preoccupation with belongings and the social image they reflect is linked to worry, stress, depression, and damaged relationships, according to a large body of evidence.
To make it work for you, follow these steps: Turn the tables on your brain and take control of your life by getting rid of needless items. Take a page from Marie Condo’s book and get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. You’ll feel less stressed and anxious as a result of the process because you’ve:
More time has been freed up to spend with friends and activities.
Spending more time and focus on your attitude and behaviour rather than on things
Removed the anxiety that comes from clinging to what you already have
Money was saved.
You’ve learned how to alter your brain’s response to loss aversion.
- A healthy sense of control is required for hope.
The self-esteem movement began in California in 1986 and has been described as amusing at best and harmful to society at worst. Back then, self-esteem was used to assess all aspects of one’s life; winners had high self-esteem, while losers had poor self-esteem.
“Make everyone feel good about themselves,” was the mantra, and it has led to our current conduct, in which we offer kids awards just for showing up, expect everyone to get good marks, and, of course, protect everyone’s feelings at all costs.
According to new research, there is no link between success and self-esteem. And guess who has the highest level of self-esteem on the planet? Criminals who are violent!
More self-esteem study demonstrates that there are various types of self-esteem.
- Self-esteem that is toxic
This is fueled by a sense of victimhood and the prevalent “don’t blame me, it’s someone else’s fault” mentality in today’s world. A person with poisonous self-esteem may have a distorted feeling of entitlement and the conviction that they must always feel good about themselves.
- Positive self-esteem
This is deeply rooted in how we feel about the aspects of our lives that we have control over. This is helpful for dealing with stress and anxiety since hopeful people have a strong sense of control.
Hope stems from the realisation that, while we have no control over how much money we make, we do have power over how hard we work and how we build talents in order to be successful.
Because they don’t beat themselves up when things go wrong, hopeful people have less stress and worry. Instead, they take satisfaction in the aspects of their lives over which they have control, such as their successes and their ability to learn new skills in order to improve their situation.
To make it work for you, follow these steps: In the areas where you need to improve, establish a baseline or starting point. Identify the steps you need to take and over which you feel you have control to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Hope uses external forces and stress to make us stronger.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the term “antifragility” in a 2012 article. He claimed that, while some things (people) get weaker when exposed to external pressures, others (people) become stronger as a result of them.
A shard of glass is brittle and easily breakable. They must be protected at all times, just like spun silk, petunia petals, or a teenager’s feelings, or they will fall apart.
Steel is a strong and durable material. It won’t budge no matter how hard you kick it, pound it, or throw rocks at it.
Taleb claims that there is a third system, which he refers to as the “antifragile” system. While fragile systems fail and robust systems withstand change, the antifragile system grows stronger as a result of stress.
Humans have the ability to go in either direction. Depending on how your mind reacts to stress and worry, you can be fragile or antifragile.
It’s called learning when we choose to look for methods to adapt and grow in our situations. Stress and external demands can be turned into a learning experience when hope is present. Veterans frequently discuss how combat trauma can contribute to personal improvement. Learning helps us to benefit from our stress and anxiety, which makes us smarter. Of course, this means consciously getting off your behind and embracing the discomfort of overcoming adversity.
Wimps, on the other hand, avoid discomfort at all costs because, indeed, they are frail. Parents that go to tremendous measures to guarantee their beautiful child has no setbacks in life, receives no bad grades, has perfect teeth, and enters the school of their choosing on scholarship (even if they’re dumber than a post) raise many children to be fragile.
Aren’t you unique?
We’ve been socialised to believe that all stress is bad, so we try to avoid pain, tension, and chaos as much as possible. As a result, we have a lower tolerance for little setbacks, and our limited world shrinks since we don’t want to experience anything terrible in life.
Remember, these days, it’s all about happiness! The constant pursuit of happiness, on the other hand, is a form of avoidance of growth. Because it relies on brief moments to please us as human beings, it produces an unquenchable need. The pursuit of happiness never enquires into the deeper question of what makes life worthwhile.
Stress isn’t always a negative experience. Stress is the body’s natural reaction to changes that place demands on us. However, some forms of stress can be beneficial. Eustress is derived from the Greek word “eu,” which means “good” or “well.” Eustress is a source of hope since it encourages us to focus on the positive aspects of life. These are the things for which we will put up with pain and suffering.
Eustress is a healthy and positive way of dealing with stress. When we view our stress as a threat, we experience distress.
The Stoics recognised that the quality of our character determines the quality of our lives. When we deny ourselves the ability to feel pain in the pursuit of a goal that is meaningful to us, we are denying ourselves the ability to feel any kind of purpose.
To make it work for you, follow these steps: Distinguish between actual distress, which can harm your health or well-being, and eustress, which can give us optimism that we can reach our goals.
Consider the following scenario:
- Bereavement of a loved one
- Neglect or abuse
- Purchasing a new house
- Taking up a new job
- Having a baby