Stress and depression are more common amongst people than we think. They can be the source of a number of mental and physical health problems. Unfortunately, many people resign to living with their stress, thinking there is no alternative.
Loving What Is (2002) by Byron Katie shows that is an alternative. It explains and guides how one can overcome stress and conquer depression. It describes a practice called ‘The Work” – a simple-step method that helps in addressing, analysing, tackling, and dealing with issues related to depression and shows the way to lead a healthy and fulfilled life.
Putting Thoughts Into Perspective
One has to understand the source of stress and depression. More often than not, the source of these lies in one’s thoughts and thus, changing the way one thinks is key.
Let us consider a hypothetical situation. A person in a happy marriage starts thinking that his partner doesn’t love him anymore and that starts stressing him out. He tries to find ways to make his partner love him again. However, not seeing any change in his partner’s behaviour towards him, the person gets more stressed.
In this situation, it is the person’s interpretation of the events, and his assumption that his partner doesn’t love him, which is the cause of his stress. He may have read his partner’s behaviour incorrectly. Hence even a small act of his partner forgetting to kiss him goodbye at the door can seem magnified, stressing his interpretation and assumption.
Let us see how one can use the practice of ‘The Work’ in this scenario.
The first step is to write down the thoughts that cause stress. For example – ‘My partner doesn’t love me anymore.
Next, the person asks an important question – ‘Is this true?’ The person should revaluate his partner’s actions to understand if he isn’t being too rash in his judgement with the next question – ‘Am I absolutely sure?’
The person should then, put his partner’s actions into perspective and see if there are any other interpretations of her behaviour.
Then he should ask – ‘How am I reacting to this thought?’ Anxiety can prolong stress, causing one to get more paranoid with the thought.
Finally, the person should ask – ‘Who would I be without this thought’ More often than not the answer to this question is ‘a happier person’.
Penning down thoughts and putting them in perspective gives one a deeper understanding of their negative thoughts.
Once thoughts are penned down and put into perspective, the next step is the ‘Turnaround’.
This step in ‘The Work’ focuses on turning thoughts around to understand one’s own situation, feelings, and discovering deeper truths about oneself.
In the earlier example, the person should approach the thoughts and feelings with another angle of perception. Maybe his partner really loves him and that he is the one who has got it all wrong.
Then the person should apply the aforementioned 4 questions to this thought and see the answers. This step will help the person gain a new perspective on his stress-causing problem.
In this manner, the person should consider all angles and possibilities and apply the questions to them. The insights gained in this question and answer session will help one discover the actual reasons behind the insecurity and the cause of stress.
It is however essential to remember that the practice of the ‘The Work’ only presents one with different options and possibilities. One has to follow the option that feels the truest.
What Can Be Changed
Considering the fact that the practice gives one options, it is vital that one understands which situations are in their control and which cant be changed at all.
For example, stressing over the fact that rains have delayed one from getting to work on time is futile. It is a reality that is beyond one control. The idea is to find acceptance of this fact.
Real-world problems like poverty, war, hunger, etc., are always out of the control of one single individual. While the anger and frustration one feels over these can be motivating, they can also drive one into the wall as easily.
Hence, one has to seek out the little things in life that one can change. Knowing that one can make a difference – even a small one – can be a very empowering feeling. Practising this overtime makes taking small, yet important actions easier and more natural. Finding satisfaction in being able to do or change something – no matter how small – is key.
Applying The Practice
This simple-step method can be applied to all aspects of life, whether it is relationships, career decisions or even managing finance.
For example, Bill is stressed due to his business. He feels that his partner isn’t competent enough to manage the work, especially work related to accounts. His feelings are creating tension between the two partners. Furthermore, he is getting more stressed due to them.
If Bill implements ‘The Work’ to his business situation, he could get down to the root cause of his stress. Turning his thoughts around could help him realize that while his partner is weak in some areas, he is a pro at others. Hence, even with his lack of skills in accounting, he could be an indispensable source.
Additionally, by turning his thoughts around, Bill would not only be able to reduce his stress, but he himself could also perform better at work.
Often the thoughts that trouble us might not seem as obvious, but upon analysing them, a simple and effective solution could reveal that is the thoughts that are the root cause of stress.
One must look for happiness, and ‘The Work’ is a great tool to find it.
Stress and depression can really throw one off balance. Negative emotions and thoughts can be put into perspective by applying the simple-step practice of ‘The Work’, and gain a deeper understanding of these. Mastering one’s thoughts can help in understanding how one interprets their own thoughts and can show the way to leading a happier, stress-free life.