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A No B.S. Guide to Defeating Stress

A No B.S. Guide to Defeating Stress

So... you're a tad stressed? Every day it seems like there's some new fire to put out, or the simple weight of the world, the bills, the uncertainty of the future or the regrets of the past weigh on you like you're carrying an elephant while trying to climb a mountain?

I get it. I'm with you. The gap between who I want to be and who I am looms large. The achievements I envision in the future seem like they're lightyears out of reach. And the bills, my goodness, the bills. The cost of living crisis up here in Canada is ridiculous.

The claim that inflation is only around 6% is laughable, especially when you see your grocery bill 4-5x in the past couple of years. 

We all have different but similar causes for our stress. Maybe family, uncertainty surrounding them or our ability to provide for them. Our goals, dreams, and aspirations. Costs, bills, the daily stress of being a man, the leader of the tribe, the caretaker for everyone.

Stress is something I've worked on for a long, long time. And I'm finally finding some concrete answers.

In this article we'll go over what I've found to work best. Each can be easily implemented, and each can cut stress down dramatically, without costing a dime.

Goals and Dreams

This has to be tackled from a few angles...

1. Having the dream, then releasing it.

2. Being proud of the work you're doing.

The dream...

Men need something to aspire to (humans do). We need a north star, something to move toward that dictates and tells us what we ought to do. But focusing solely on that dream can have negative impacts, like discouraging us, stressing us out, and even not allowing us to do the best work in the moment - which is all that matters.

It takes practice, but we can have the goal, then release it to focus all of our attention on the work that has to be done in the moment. The moment is all that matters, and it's all we should focus on.

By doing this, by freeing yourselves of the weight of our aspirations, we end up doing better work, having more energy, have more fun while doing it, and as a result, we achieve more and get more done.

Even Michael Jordan said, "Relax and never think about what’s at stake. Just think about the basketball game."

Being proud of what you're doing...

Sometimes stress is deserved. Yup, I said it. Sometimes we're stressed because we're not working hard enough or doing enough.

This, largely, is a case of not being in the moment. We're thinking about that goal, dream, whatever, and it's likely a big one, at least big in comparison to where we are now. And that makes us want to make one massive move, and that desire makes what we should be doing right now seem not big enough, or not important enough.

But success works by compounding. It's small, good decisions made over a long period of time that add up and compound into outsized results. It's never one great thing we do, but the culmination of thousands of days of being disciplined and working hard.

Have your goal. Release it. Figure out what you ought to do on a daily basis, and do it every day.

Ending a long day of work, where you put everything you had into it, gives you a sense of pride, even if the growth isn't there yet.

It's hard to be stressed when you're busy as shite improving.

The bills and daily stresses.

Man, sometimes there are things that really are stressful. Like bills, debts, even a looming possibility of bankruptcy, not being able to buy food, and so forth.

It's being in survival mode rather than living.

For these forms of stress, I go to the Bible, and to Stoicism. 

It's the idea that God wouldn't put me through anything that I can't handle, and the reality that every tough situation or period of time has some benefit, typically in forging our character, and even allowing us to thrive amidst stress, not just endure it.

I'm reading a biography on Caesar, and I realized something important. Every great man needs great struggle. We need problems, many of them, not for our 'story' or our legacy, but for our character.

Caesar's life was a constant flow of problems. He was dramatically in debt as a young fella. To get out of that debt he essentially became a general. While being a general he faced problem after problem, threat after threat, both in Rome and Gaul and other places.

He'd be attacked on one front, have to leave to defend against another, and return to defeat the initial attack. 

That's fookin life. 

Hardship hardens.

Read Stoicism, read history. Read about Caesar, Genghis Khan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, whomever. What you'll see is struggle, battle, uncertainty, danger, loss, success, and so forth.

I'm sure these guys had their moments of stress, but if you look at Ancient Rome, especially, a hero was someone who died with honor. Danger was a part of life. It just was. We don't necessarily have that any longer.

That said, talk to any super successful guy, and you'll see an incredible ability to handle stress on even higher stakes than either of us face.

Being able to handle stress of all kinds makes you antifragile, it ensures you're going to live a great life, and a happy one, too, no matter how it's going.

It's maybe the most important skill a driven man can create, and it can be created.

The power of aggression

MJ, again, with one of the best quotes ever, "I realized that if I was going to achieve anything in life I had to be aggressive. I had to get out there and go for it."

Fear and aggression can't coexist.

Think about that. We have to be aggressive, as men, toward the things that threaten us. Like bills, like stress, like danger. We cannot be fearful, we simply can't.

When we're fearful, we're timid, we made bad decisions, and everyone around us can feel this fear, and they become fearful as a result.

We have to meet the threats we face with courage and aggression simply to not allow fear and worry take hold of us. 

It's un-manly to allow fear to grip one's soul and guide one's actions.

We're the rock, we're the man. 

Think of battle in ancient Rome, it's a good way to see the effects of fear. 

A fearful man on the battlefield will surely die. He'll be timid. He'll move slower, react worse. But he'll also likely get the men next to him killed. He's a danger to himself and everyone around him.

The warrior, however, is aggressive. He'll strike first. Once a battle is started, there's no sense in being timid, it does us no good.

Once a battle in our own lives is waged metaphorically or literally, we have to be aggressive simply to act in a fashion that will help us win the battle.

Amor Fati

Life isn't a thing we achieve, but a thing we do.

Success, also, isn't a thing we achieve, but a thing we do.

We cannot wish things are not as they are, because they are. Talk about a futile way of thinking.

We have to love what is because it is. We cannot aim to alter things which are not under our control. We can aspire to make sure the future isn't as it is, but we can't wish the present was any different. We have to appreciate what is, regardless of how it is.

The reality is, too, life always throws things our way that are not ideal. There will never be a moment of perfection, there is always something wrong if we look for it, and always something right if we look for it.

So, allow what's right to dominate your brain.

Again, this isn't just to feel good, but to be good. We perform better when we're happy, light, and we don't have the chronic stress of worry and fear dominating our thoughts. We may have acute stress, like struggle in the moment, but that's good stress, like working out. 

To adopt this view of amor fati, that you love fate, or it's God's plan, that brings meaning into one's suffering and struggle, essentially makes you superhuman in the sense that you become immune to stress, and you love what is, not matter what it is.

Nothing can get you down, nothing can break you, and nothing can defeat you.

It's peak masculinity. The result is, you can take on the world and your family won't feel any stress because you're not stressed. You can battle with your work, your goals, your aspirations, without the weight of stress that clouds your life.

Loving fate is having power, real power.

Nothing can derail you. Nothing can break you. Nothing can stress you out.

It takes practice, sure.

You have to identify what you're grateful for, but what you're grateful for has to be essentially, everything. You have to circle back to the idea that you won't be put through anything you can't handle, and in some way, the struggles you face exist to improve your character. 

These struggles are thus beneficial, not detrimental.

In the end...

“Don’t let yourself forget how many doctors have died, furrowing their brows over how many deathbeds. How many astrologers, after pompous forecasts about others’ ends. How many philosophers, after endless disquisitions on death and immortality. How many warriors, after inflicting thousands of casualties themselves. How many tyrants, after abusing the power of life and death atrociously, as if they were themselves immortal. How many whole cities have met their end: He like, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and countless others. And all the ones you know yourself, one after another.

One who laid out another for burial, and was buried himself, and then the man who buried him - all in the same short space of time. In short, know this: Human lives are brief and trivial.

Yesterday a blob of semen; tomorrow embalming fluid, ash. To pass through this brief life as nature demands. To give it up without complaint. Like an olive that ripens and falls. Praising its mother, thanking the tree it grew on.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

This wonderfully depressing quote highlights the triviality of everything, including our problems.

Take what comes at you with an aggressive smile, like this 'thing' things it can defeat you?

Take what comes at you as if it is supposed to come at you because this is what nature intended, this is what life wanted to happen at this moment.

Take your struggles as gifts, not curses.

Take all of it, the good, the bad which is actually good because it exists, because soon, far sooner than we realize, it will be all over.

It doesn't matter what we achieve in this life, we're all dead in the end. What matters is who we are and how we live. 

Live well. Live daringly. Stress can only exist when we allow it to, when we choose that perspective on the events in our lives, it cannot exist in the moment, when we're actually living.

Defeating Stress Checklist

  • Earn no stress - do the work, have the discipline
  • Amor Fati - love fate, study Stoicism
  • Exercise Daily - do something active every day to maintain brain health
  • Be aggressive toward your obstacles
  • Have a dream/goal, then release it and focus only on the best thing you can do in a given moment
  • Get a great sleep every night
  • Feed your brain - consume enough omega-3's, choline (animal organs), don't eat too much, eat only what you can pick or kill (real food)
  • Get outside as often as possible, humans aren't bred to be in 'cages'
  • Identify victories, no matter how small, show that you're winning

Adopt a lifestyle of both achievement and no stress. It seems like a dichotomy, to not stress while you're trying to improve, but they can coexist.

Be aggressive, love fate, be healthy, and earn the right to not be stressed because you're doing everything you can to make things as best they can be.

Supplements that help reduce stress..

Supplementation can actually help, but it falls in line behind lifestyle changes, sleep, and getting your mind right.

They work because of their adaptogenic properties, meaning they help mitigate the bodies response to stress. Meaning they'll quell cortisol levels, which is your primary stress hormone.

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