My journey from Stress to Peace.
I know pain.
Your pain – During the last 30 years, I have been working in the clinical and private treatment of both physical and emotional ailments, ranging from conception/birth difficulties through to end-of-life palliative care and all stages in between.
My pain – During those same 30 years, I have burned out 3 times.
I have spent endless hours planning and working on overdrive to achieve my goals. This unintentionally created dissatisfaction with my life, by focusing on what I don’t have, and relentless chasing of these goals left me constantly stressed and exhausted. And so I would come up with a plan to solve that problem, and chase that goal – not realising that I was still perpetuating a vicious circle. Hence burning out 3 times.
During all of this time, I had a nagging feeling that the existing techniques for dealing with stress, burnout and related physical ailments were somehow…not enough.
The psychology approach to stress management can help for a while, but the problems often return. And the same is true for physical treatment of stress-related pain/injury/fatigue, etc.
The trouble, as I see it, is that none of the current approaches deal with the cause of stress. Because I believe stress is not caused by what happens in your life.
At least, not mainly. Allow me to explain, using a common example of what happens in our lives.
It’s early morning. Your children bustle down to the breakfast table, shouting at each other. Which emotion does this make you feel?
a) Irritation. Why do they have to make so much noise, all the time, every day?
b) Love. You are obviously raising energetic, lively, confident children.
How can the same event cause two such contrasting feelings? Because it is not the children that cause your feelings, at all. It is your attitude to them, and to life in general, that dictates your feelings. A positive outlook tends to encourage positive feelings about what happens in your life, while a negative outlook will more often foster negative feelings.
This is a useful realisation for us, but the Optimal Default setting goes much, much further than that. In fact, the Optimal Default Setting can make the things that happen in your life powerless to cause you stress (if you practice using it enough).
The Optimal Default Setting
If you let outside events influence your thoughts, then your related emotions/feelings will be, to a certain extent, at the mercy of random life events (further moderated positively or negatively by your attitude/outlook at the time). For many of us, this often means stressful feelings.
However, there is no need for our feelings to be at the mercy of life events.
In the developed world, we tend to face relatively few stressful situations that are truly life-essential, such as avoiding a car crash, putting out a fire, etc. Our common causes of stress, such as a criticism from your boss, an argument with your partner, an unexpected cost that will put you in the red this month – we regularly and routinely deal with these issues and move on with life. There is actually almost no need for them to cause us stress, but we let them anyway.
But I repeat – with only a few life-necessary exceptions, there is no need for our feelings to be at the mercy of life events. And the Optimal Default Setting demonstrates why.
The Thought Cloud
In 2009, scientists at Stanford University stated that we have up to 90,000 thoughts daily. Since then, it has been suggested by others that we are actually more likely to experience 250,000 thoughts daily.
All of these thoughts have the potential to influence our feelings. If we latch onto a negative thought, it can make us unhappy/angry/jealous, etc. But if we then latch onto another of these thousands of available thoughts, our feeling can suddenly change. We have all experienced this.
The key to the Optimal Default Setting is realising that only very few of our thoughts (and related feelings) are caused by outside life events. Far, far more of our thoughts (and potential related feelings) are just part of the thought cloud that all humans live in.
And here is the most beautiful part of the Optimal Default Setting – it doesn’t require any effort. You don’t have to keep monitoring your thoughts and actively decide to focus on something positive when a negative thought occurs. You don’t have to do anything at all. Just by realising that each thought (and related feeling) is only one of a cast cloud of thoughts (and potential related feelings) is enough to ease the stress. And the more we live with this realisation and let it become our natural ‘optimal’ default setting (hence the name), the more we feel our stress eased.
When I first had my Optimal Default Setting idea firmly in place, I found that right there in the moment, I had clarity and peace. My mind fog, created by an over-drive of thinking, cleared instantly, as I realised that I was responsible for myself and my thinking. This allowed me freedom, direction and purposeful, stress-free flowing thought.
Going back to what I said at the start, I have burned out 3 times. And I know pain. But this new way of thinking has brought me a level of peace which I had not previously experienced. And that peace has not gone away.
I hope it will do the same for you.
“Dawn is an intuitive therapist who gives practical, credible and creative advice in relaxation and battling the pressures of the office and life.” – Eve Baldwin, Vice President of Human Resources, Personal Care Division, Unilever.
“Dawn is an incredible therapist. Her technical expertise& credentials are excellent, but she is more than a great masseuse (& she IS the best masseuse I’ve ever come across!) Dawn has a true gift for healing & understanding what an individual’s body needs at that moment.” – Wendy Powell, Founder + CEO, MuTu System Limited | Post-Partum Exercise Specialist.