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The curious case of stress

curious“I have no special gift – I am only passionately curious”
- Albert Einstein

A curious mindset, it turns out, is not only essential in the development of science but is one of the key ingredients in reducing stress and promoting change.

Have you ever tried to control or push away the feeling of stress, because you really didn’t have time to be stressed? You probably felt you put lot’s of energy into it, not leaving much attention left to the things you really wanted to do. Maybe it was a project you wanted to start, a decision you needed to make or you just would have loved to spend time with your family.

Ongoing and long lasting stress can have a negative impact on our relationships, performance, mood and physical health. Learning to manage stress in a sustainable way starts with becoming aware of the cycle of stress.

Here is where curiosity comes into play

When we experience stress it impacts several aspects of our life which we can learn to observe and explore. Think of the thoughts (e.g. worries, thoughts of failure), physical sensations (e.g. tension in your neck, shallow breathing), emotions (e.g. fear, anxiety) and behaviour (e.g. frantic talking, insomnia) that come up.

Be curious about how stress affects you. This will allow you to create some space between the experience of stress and you. You can’t control external situations, but with a curious mind you can discover new possibilities and find solutions that work for you. And best of all, you will have more energy left to focus on the things that are important to you.

Learn to become a curious explorer

Undoubtedly fear and uncertainty are major barriers to becoming a curious explorer. The safety of financial stability or social acceptance are often the reason people don’t dare to explore possibilities. Curiosity is a great helper and supporter when facing uncertainty and fortunately it is a skill anyone can learn and improve.

To help you along here are a few tips you can practice on a daily basis. They are based on Todd Kashdan’s book Curious?

1. Notice and seek new things in your daily routines. Look for the little things.

2. When you are talking to people, try to stay open to whatever emerges without assumptions or judgments.

3. Allow your attention to be guided by little sights, sounds, smells or physical sensations.

Start to practice just a few minutes every day and in different situations. During a walk, when you wake up, when you are with family, friends or at work. Just keep in mind to practice and forgive yourself when you miss a day.

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