How Can Mental Aikido Help You in Re-framing Stress?

We stress about things we care about

Someone grown up on the staple diet of martial art could immediately relate Aikido (a form of martial art) with “Steven Seagal” — a famous action star of the 90s. Yes, you caught me there— I’m old enough to remember action stars of the ’90s — but young enough to practice two different kinds of martial arts, even today.

Meaning ‘the way of harmony and spirit’ Aikido does not look to meet violence with violence — it is primarily based on circular natural body movements whereby an attacker’s aggressive force is turned against them.

In other words, it means that instead of blocking an opponent’s attack, you use the energy to redirect its momentum. Therefore, at an elementary level, Aikido is somewhat counterintuitive to the conventional form of martial art.

When I first heard about the potential of mental Aikido to reframe stress — I was immediately hooked to unravel the mystery.

I am sure; once you learn to use the underlying principles of mental Aikido, you too would prefer to use it as a go-to method to counter your share of stress. Because whether we accept it or not, living in an uncertain world can often throw you off balance by exposing you to life-altering stressful moments like losing your job, reputation, or relationship.

Numerous researchershave found that perception of stress as a threat dramatically increases its harmful physical effects on our body while taking a heavy toll on our creativity & productivity.

While others may have this default tendency to fight their Negative-stress, you can, instead, learn from what the stress is telling you and make the necessary adjustments.

You can start these adjustments by following these 4 simple Steps —

  1. Learn to reframe anything negative into positive
  2. Appreciate the underlying reason behind stress
  3. Identify the scope for improving the present situation
  4. Constructively choose your own deflection strategies

1. Learn to reframe anything negative into positive

Our Autonomic nervous system has a built-in evolutionary stress response known as “fight or flight response” that causes physiological changes within our body to combat stressful situations.

However, if not appropriately regulated, this response can become chronically activated during a prolonged period of stress, causing physical and emotional wear and tear.

Yet, the moment we create a positive mindset around stress by framing it as a challenge instead of a threat, stress can fuel our productivity.

Most of the time, we forget thatNegative stress is often an indication that —

  • Whatever you are doing isn’t working, and you need to make some changes.
  • It’s a kind of wake up call for you before things start getting worse.

Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to fight the Negative stress; instead, the intention is to befriend the stress by listening to them with respect and appreciation!

2. Appreciate the underlying reason behind stress

Embedded within every possible source of stress is meaning. And more often than not, the adverse effects of stress are amplified when we become separated from meaning.

For example, when my eight-year-old kid’s best friend gets an F in one subject, I don’t feel the same stress as I would if that were my kid – can you imagine the drama it can ensue?

Similarly, there is a very bright chance of me getting too stressed about my most crucial project deadline because I care for its timely completion.

“We stress about things we care about.”

Therefore, if you’re feeling stressed about something, you can start by asking yourself these couple of questions —

Why does this matter?

When it comes to reminding myself of the exact reason I need to get any particular thing done, I’ve developed this habit of writing “my why” on a post-it note and sticking it on my laptop monitor as a constant reminder.

Why is this necessary?

Because your brain hates wasting energy so, if it doesn’t remember why something is valuable or meaningful to you, it will merely stop diverting useful energy to that thing and might fail to give all the requisite priority it deserves.

3. Identify the scope for improving the present situation

We can learn how to reframe our default perception to make mental shifts that empower us to tap into our limited energy reservoir.

For instance, you can ask yourself, “What exactly should I do now to improve the present situation?” Instead of saying, “I can’t do anything about this; because things are simply out of my control.”

We often refuse to recognize that —

How we respond to a challenge is always within our control!

Whether we accept it or not, most of our responses are shaped by our self-talk. If you notice carefully, we’re in the habit of talking to ourselves all the time.

The obvious question remains, “Is what you are saying helping you or hurting you?”. Because you have the power within you to use winning self-talk and make stress work for you.

4. Constructively choose your own deflection strategies

When I’m angry about something, I try to differentiate the constructive use of negative emotions from destructive ones. And when I’m dejected, I make an effort to channelize my frustration and stress into other activities.

It’s entirely up to you to choose your own deflection strategies.

But as long as you’re willing to try out those options, you may be astonished to discover you’re actually more resilient, more efficient, and more immersed when caught up in some unexpected spiral of distress.

Since we’re irrationally addicted to the emotions we experience, it’s often easier to convince ourselves to indulge in the experience rather than change it.

Probably the reason why we see sad people listening to depressing music and dejected people drowning themselves in self-pity & loneliness. Even though they don’t like feeling sad, they choose to intensify that feeling.

Perhaps the reason why mental aikido as a psychological tool is more effective than trying hard to change your emotional state.

Concluding Thoughts

Stress is often a function of believing that you have limited choices — and none of them are good enough. Mental aikido trains you, indirectly, to see other options or the possibility for them.

  • It’s a way to train yourself to reframe your perspective beyond the limited options.
  • It’s a way to refrain from assuming that every conflict is a zero-sum game, in which one side wins by making the other lose.
  • It’s a way to train yourself to respond with more awareness and confidence.

The problem with most of your stressful experiences is that they all eventually cease. Those experiences in themselves do not cause any suffering; it’s your aversion to them that makes you suffer.

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it, and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. –Marcus Aurelius.

Originally published on Medium.

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