For Tense, Stressed, And Impatient People: A Basic Mental Exercise That Will Help Fix It


Reading this article can help absolutely anyone if they genuinely try and engage with it. It’s a big claim I know, but my challenge for you is to stay and read it all. Seriously. Before you poo-poo my claim, I invite you to genuinely try to engage with every sentence. If you don’t want to, I encourage you to try even more.

We all have an emotional “window of tolerance”. This window is that mid-range of your emotional experience where you can operate without losing control. Drop out of the window and you become bored, depressed, lethargic, numb, even dissociated – any of the low-energy emotional states. Rise out of the window and adrenaline takes over; you become angry, panicked, anxious, manic – any of the high-energy emotional states.

It’s amazing what people will do – mostly unconsciously – to remain within their window of tolerance and get out of feeling at all uncomfortable or tense. As you continue to read this, notice how you’re feeling in response. Notice and ask yourself why you feel that way. Are comfortable? Are you getting bored? Frustrated? Excited? Why?

Are you already getting bored of this artsy-fartsy crap? Okay. There it is. Your mind is already creating reasons/feelings/sensations to stop you reading on and continuing to feel something uncomfortable – whether that’s anger or boredom or fear. Please: I invite you to keep going and bear that feeling just a little longer.

Already started to speed-read? Okay. There it is. Your mind has automatically taken over your conscious decision to engage this article. Why would it do that?

This challenge is about realizing that you don’t need to do anything in response to feeling uncomfortable. It’s also about addressing the fear of fear itself. Make no mistake – bearing tension (whether that’s now or anytime in the future) – without needing to fix/remove it – is a practical tool that will make you more resilient.

Usually when something’s going on that makes us uncomfortable, we do something to nullify it. In this case, it might be thoughts of, “I’ve got better things to do than read this”, or, “I’ll skip to the bottom to find out the point”. In others, it’s automatically reaching for a beer (or something stronger).

But you can resist it. And the way to start is simply by bearing some tension for just a few more seconds – without fixing/removing it. The point is feeling uncomfortable. The point is you may not want to read this, but you do anyway. The point is in recognising that your own mind is doing everything it can to avoid feeling uncomfortable. But you don’t have to. You can just be uncomfortable. You can bear that boredom/stress/anxiety/fear/depression and nothing terrible happens as a consequence.

One of the common things we do in these situations is go into our heads: you might start to focus on grammar or the logic of my argument or anything that takes you away from feeling uncomfortable. Try and resist that. Come back to engaging the content of the article and the way you feel in response. Feel a need to rant in the comments section (here, or elsewhere)? Why? What button is it pushing and can you just bear the tension for a few moments before you comment?

Lastly, I invite you to employ this in your day-to-day life. In fact, you’d probably be surprised to realise just how much of your day is spent avoiding feeling uncomfortable. So when you feel yourself getting frustrated/angry/anxious/stressed/bored – just bear it for a little bit. Notice how you’re feeling and try and get to why you’re uncomfortable. Doing this will expand your window of tolerance and develop resilience in future uncomfortable situations.

featured image – davejdoe