It’s been a week since Neha’s had a good night’s sleep. Their days are a blur of binge eating dessert and losing their temper over the smallest of problems. They find themselves snapping at others only to later be berated for being snarky and rude. They know and everyone close to them knows that Neha is stressed and needs a break. But why does Neha feel so stressed? Well, no one knows.
Like Neha, we too can feel all encompassing, overwhelming stress without really knowing where it comes from. This can be extremely frustrating and exhausting because unless we have a grasp on the source, we cannot decide how to deal with the stress.
So how do we gain clarity on what is stressing us out?
Do not fight yourself to put the stressful thoughts at bay. The more we do this or distract ourselves, the thoughts might push back harder and may prolong the stress. It’s like a boomerang that comes back and hits us harder.
Let the stressful thoughts come to you but make sure you’re in a safe space both mentally and physically before you do this. To create a mentally safe space, imagine you are in a comfortable location: for instance in a nice cosy cottage in the mountains and then let the stressful thoughts come to you. Instead of reacting to them just observe them as if you were a third person detached from the situation. Be curious instead of reactive about the situation that stresses you out.
Once you know where the stress is coming from you can further narrow down to what about that situation is stressing you out. The director of the Center for Studies on Human Stress, Dr. Sonia Lupien says that all stressors have some characteristics in common. Research has shown that for any situation to be registered as stressful to our brains it has to possess at least one or more of these four characteristics.
They are: –
Novelty – something new that we have never dealt with before.
Unpredictability – we don’t know what’s going to happen.
Threat to ego – feeling that our capabilities are being questioned.
Sense of control – feeling that we have little or no control over the situation
Let’s take an example.
Neha has just graduated from their undergrad course but is feeling stressed instead of elated and relieved. If Neha were to use N.U.T.S to understand what about this situation is stressing them out they might realise that they find the future unpredictable-although they have applied to a few jobs they don’t know what’s going to happen. Further, they realise that they haven’t been in this kind of situation before-they have always had some structure in place to fall back on, so the lack of it is novel. They may not feel like there is a threat to their capabilities and may they feel some sense of control because of their role in applying for jobs. So the situation scores on two of NUTS factors for Neha. Now that Neha knows what’s stressing them out they can think of ways in which they can cope with the unpredictability and novelty.
Like Neha we need to know what is driving us N.U.T.S. before we can choose to tackle it.