3Talk Show – South Africa

3Talk TV Interview Transcript

It’s been said globally that three out of five visits to the doctor are stress related. It’s no wonder, given the fact that we live in a fast paced world, juggling work and family responsibilities and so much more. Anxiety, due to a lot of uncertainty also contributes to the high levels of stress. Today we will be discussing ways to destress and become happier with our lives and the situations we are faced with on a daily basis.

Please welcome business coach and author Meiron Lees who is here to give us helpful tips for living a stress free life. The book Meiron has written is D-Stress – Building Resilience in Challenging Times, Seven Simple Techniques.

I imagine that the reason you wrote the book is because that at some time you were very stressed.

Many, many years ago I realised I didn’t have an essential life skill. That was, “how do I control my thoughts and therefore my emotions. I was allowing either the conditions I was in, the circumstances I was in, or other people to dictate the way I was feeling. And I realised if that’s the case I am going to be on an emotional roller coaster ride for the rest of time. It became a passion of mine, how do I find the answers to live a stress reduced life and be in control of my own emotions.

We are beings who are influenced largely by our circumstances, influenced largely by what people say, influenced by our jobs, so the “you” is put on the back burner while everything else is dictating our way of life.

I think what’s important is how we interpret what’s happening to us. And often people blame circumstances, or are victim to their circumstances. But really if you look at stress, there’s no stress in circumstances. For example if you’re getting stressed in traffic, where in fact is the stress? Stress doesn’t reside outside ourselves, stress resides within ourselves. So therefore we can have a relationship with stress and we can control our stress because it∍s a feeling that we have within our own body.

Do you believe there is good stress and bad stress, or stress is just stress?

I do believe there’s different kinds of stress Noeleen. There’s good stress and bad stress, in fact there’s a terminology for good stress called “you stress”. And that is the stress that gets us to do actions that we wouldn’t normally do. It gets us a little bit outside our comfort zone to do things, to push ourselves to do things we wouldn’t normally be doing. So that extra 10 minutes on the tread mill perhaps, or putting our hand up to do something at work we find challenging. That’s good stress because it can be productive.

How do I know that I am stressed? I think that living in Johannesburg which is really such a fast paced place, traffic all the time, meetings, deadlines, you say a lot of the time, “I’m stressed”. But actually if you really looked down at it you’re not really stressed it’s just part of what you’ve been doing. So how do I know, Meiron, that I am really stressed?

I think there’s two ways. One is physically and you would know mentally as well. For example, if our physiology is being affected, we’re tired all the time, we’re not sleeping well, we’re changing our eating habits, we’re eating a lot less or a lot more. If we’re starting to have physical symptoms, for example if we’re having ulcers or high blood pressure, we start to know that something’s going wrong with our body. Often that’s stress related. And mentally as well, for example, if we are feeling depressed or feeling anxious.

D-Stress – Building Resilience in Challenging Times. Let’s go through the end of the book, the Stress Health Checks.

It’s an informal health check. What I’ve done is make it really easy for the reader. All you have to do is check some boxes, we have differents statements for different people, some the’ll find stressful, some they won’t find stressful. All you do is go to the different categories at the end of the book and just simply tick the ones that you feel are stressful to you. Then you add up your scores, and at the end you’ll get a total score. That will lead you to read something that will tell you in what category you are in terms of low stress or high stress.

In the sleeve of the book is a little Red Card. Let’s talk about the three statements on the card and how it relates to stress and ultimately how it can help me.

What’s really interesting is that we have about 60,000 thoughts every single day. When I heard that statistic it was quite incredible. Then I heard the next statistic, that most of those 60,000 thoughts are negative. So we’ve got about 45,000 negative thoughts churning through our mind. I call those Thought Attacks™. In a similar way that a referee holds out a Red Card and sends a player off the field for doing a damaging act, so too can we send our negative thoughts out of our mind. And we do that through three simple points on the Red Card.

The first one is – these thoughts are harmful to me. If I’m thinking negative thoughts, I know it’s going to have a consequence to me.
The second point is – I can choose different thoughts, no one’s holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to think in a certain way. We can choose the way that we want to think.
The third point, which is the most important point is a question. And that question is, “how else can I interpret what’s happening? How else can I perceive, how else can I interpret the event that’s happening, that’s causing me to feel stressed?” So it starts shifting our perspective to perhaps start looking at the benefit and the opportunities in the stressful situation.

But is it as easy as one, two, three?

Well, it takes practise.

I would imagine, because if I’ve been living my life having 45,000 negative thoughts every single day, it’s going to be very difficult to change this. Let’s go into practicalities as to how we can change the thought processes and have less negative thoughts and more positive thoughts.

This is why we need to control our mind. If we leave our mind alone, those 45,000 negative thoughts are going to come to play. So what’s really important is for us to learn how to interpret what’s happening to us, so we choose positive interpretations, rather than allowing the circumstance to dictate the way that we feel. Say we’re stuck in traffic for example, and we’re getting really stressed and frustrated, and we use the Red Card and we send those negative thoughts out through our mind, and we say “how else can I look at this? How else can I interpret this?” I can’t control the traffic, but I can control the way that I want to perceive, the way I want to interpret what’s happening to me. So I might put on the radio, listen to a program I like, or I might put on a nice CD, and relax on the way to work. Maybe it gives me another half an hour more to relax. And that’s a different way of looking at it. So in that way we don’t allow the external circumstances to affect ourselves internally and our stress levels.

In your book you mention a guy, who has not been doing very well in his business, it’s a half million dollar deal that he’s going to do, gets onto a train, there’s a 20 minute delay, he know he’s not going to make it. This happens to us (it may not be a half million dollar deal) but it may be something very important, materialistically, financially, personally. How do you not get your knickers in a complete knot because you know if this train is delayed or this plane is delayed I’m not going to make it. And therefore what I really, really want for myself, is not going to come to pass.

What’s so important here is to know what we can and can’t control. We can’t control the train coming late, but we can control what we can control. And therefore we can make a call and say “I am running late” and adjust what we can do about the situation. If it’s an hour meeting, and we’re 20 minutes late, ok well I’ve only got 40 minutes to give this presentation and I’ll make the most of that. We get stressed when we try to control something we actually can’t control.

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