How to benefit from stress and anxiety

The benefit of stress

This seems counter-intuitive at first. The trick is to change the way we view stress and tension. Let’s face it, no matter how good our lives become there will always be stress. It will happen to the best of us. So we can’t avoid it so we may as well learn to live with it.

Change our attitude to stress

If we can view the troubles of life as learning opportunities then we’re half way there.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying if something drastic happens like a death of a loved one we just say, “Great what can I learn from this?” Although further in time we will learn from the really painful things in life but that will happen organically.

If we look at areas that may cause us stress and anxiety such as careers, health and relationships. In my life I’ve let things get on top of me which leads to anxiety and worry. It still does. But I am getting better at trying to see what I can do about it.

Be honest with yourself. You can have a job you hate, hate the relationship you are in and hate your body and fitness levels. This leads to stress, anxiety and depression.

What next?

Well we can use the emotions to make a change. If we can use the situation to make changes in our lives we can then view stress as a good thing. We can then hopefully view stress as our friend. Stress a friend! – Can’t believe I just wrote that! So be comfortable with it and realise that the emotion is telling you something. So if you don’t like your body go to the gym, run or whatever appeals to you. Read up on nutrition start to eat clean. Do it step by step. In a bad relationship talk about it, and decide what you want. In a career you don’t like then look for another job, go to college or university if you have to.

The choices are endless. This is not rocket science. But for so many people it is easier to moan than take action. I’ve been there, but I’ve also took action to change my life and situation.

The other option…

Don’t ignore anxiety

Bad day at work in a job you hate, well it’s obvious go and get drunk, that will solve it. For a few hours! Feeling fat and unhealthy? May as well get a pizza and chips then as what’s the point, “I’m fat anyway!” In a bad relationship? Well everyone is the same so may as well do nothing about it.

These are good tactics to avoid stress momentarily. But this leads to a cycle of more and more stress. In fact I’ll bet that some people who do the second option and avoid the stress signals don’t even know they are doing it.

The point is don’t ignore stress, use it to make changes

It doesn’t always have to be so dramatic and issue. You could be having problems in work and you need more training. But you need to take action and ask for it. You might be overweight but need some help getting started so join a running club. You might have relationship problems but just need to communicate better.

How to use tension and anxiety?

Next time you feel tension or stress say, “What can I do about this?” There will normally be something you can do. Even if it means being patient and planning how you will improve the situation. Start with the small things. Look at it like a challenge.

This means you are talking responsibility for your life. Which is a good thing as problems normally start from ourselves anyway, not every time. But the way we react is a choice we make.

So for the next week keep a track of all the stress we complain about and ask the question – “what can I do about this? “.

Meditation is selfish

Meditation has been criticised for being a solitary selfish discipline

I agree it is selfish.

Sometimes being selfish is a good thing. Think about it. Who else keeps you fit? Helps you eat the right food? Helps you make decisions (good or bad)?

Only one person – you.

The choices we make shape our lives and our future. We need to remind ourselves that we have the power to change for good or bad. We often beat ourselves up for the bad choices we make in regarding our career, relationships and health. We need to focus more on the positive choices we make, and learn from mistakes without dwelling on the past.

Back to meditation

By meditating we learn to calm the mind and not react. This is one skill I’ve yet to master! However the learning process is part of the challenge, the fun and the reward. This work is selfish yet good for you and others. Why? Well they don’t tell you to look after yourself first when taking off on a plane for nothing. You’d be useless to your family and friends if you couldn’t breathe on a plane in an emergency. By looking after ourselves first we can then pass on the goodness to others. Remember Jocko’s quote calm is contagious in Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.

Do you ever want to help someone when you’re stressed, angry or worried? Not normally, and I’m guilty of snarling at times – sorry.

So don’t feel guilty about being selfish.

Take the time to meditate and chill for the greater good.

Beat anxiety like a boxer


black and white picture of boxer winning anxiety fight

Never let a bad experience go to waste!

Use it don’t lose it. There are far too many “bad” past experiences that can help us when times get tough. This is not some self-help bullshit but “facts” as Rafa once said, but we won’t go into that right now!

What are these “facts”?

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Well I can safely guarantee that we all have past life experiences that we can recall and put to use when we need them.

If you haven’t had any negatives in your life, I don’t believe you! I was going to say you’d be a lucky person to have had a life with no downside. Tough times help you grow as a person, tough times help your character.

They even give you a funny story to tell, well sometimes it’s funny.

Don’t change the memory, change how you see it

We’ve all been there – being broke, a break up, fired from a job or not getting the job you set your heart on. It doesn’t even have to be emotional it can be physical too. The ankle injury you had when the doctor said you’ll have to give up running. Or the neck injury you had and were told you definitely couldn’t practice ju-jitsu.

I’m still running, the lesson is don’t always trust doctors!

Think about your own bad times. The times you can recall without much emotional reaction. This is not meant to belittle anything that is raw and you are going through now. You have to work that out in your own time and way. The majority of people will have a list of things that happened in their past that that do not harm us now.

Think about this for a moment…

At the time we thought it would last forever. I thought this is it. This is how it’s going to be. The anxiety builds and builds. The mind plays tricks on us and looks at the worst case scenario. It’s what we are programmed to do. A survival instinct. Left unchecked negative habits can form and we don’t even see the patterns. The questions arise – why me, is it a jinx when will my luck change?

We got through it though, we healed and we came back.

See the bigger picture and learn from it

It’s not you, you’re not that important scheme of things. It’s just life throwing body and head shots at you. If a boxer gets in the ring for the first time and takes a few hits that’s understandable. That’s normal. What’s not normal or plain stupid is not learning form the experience.

Einstein said the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result

 So you’ve took a few hits what next?

You decide to not step back in the ring. This is not acceptable. I’ll leave that with you.

You’re brave so you step up again and the same thing happens. Whack, whack, whack! Hate to say it but tactically you’re a dope, whether in life or in a boxing ring. I’ve been guilty of this too.

Remember absorb adapt learn

Take what you have experienced and learn from it. Think win or learn. Develop habits that will serve you through life. You’ll never eliminate all anxiety but you can defend against it, avoid the worst of it by seeing it coming, counter and attack it when the time is right.

A boxer who is never tested will never improve

Take the lessons from life and use them to you advantage. If you find the pressure building in work and it leads to an anxiety attack, use this information for your future benefit. Ask yourself how can you defend against this? Did you eat well at the time? Were you sleeping well? Did you neglect the gym that week? Drink too much alcohol?

Next time you could remove yourself from the situation for a brief period of time to calm yourself. Or endeavour to train harder, eat healthy and drink less beer!

If you didn’t get the job you wanted, analyse the reasons to see how you can perform better next time. It could be a small thing like starting your preparation a week earlier.

Or a big change like going to college or university to become more qualified. This is hard but it can be done as I did it.

Take ownership of you present and future

We can’t control fate but we can control our response to adversity. This is not about dwelling on the past but using it to our advantage. It can take a while to change our way of thinking, but I can genuinely say it has helped me when things go wrong in life. I’m far from perfect but seeing the bigger picture is a habit worth cultivating. It even helps take the bitterness and anger away which only drains me anyway.

I would like to add that certain things in life will knock us for six and this tactic may not help for everything. However even extreme circumstances can bring the best out of people. Check out Victor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning.

Start with the small things

If you struggle with this concept start small. The person you dislike in work, just say hello, ask them if they want a drink. It does work. Then build up to bigger more serious issues. In the end you start to think everything happens for a reason.

All the s**ts from your past are just people not s**ts. They taught you to bob, weave, defend and attack! Haha.

That feels much better.




We can change at any moment take action to defeat anxiety!

every moment is inspiration

Patience and confidence

When anxiety gets a grip of us it seems like it’s never ending. When bad days occur we feel like this is the way it’s always going to be.

What do we need in these times?

Patience and confidence.

The patience to to understand that things in life won’t last forever. And the confidence to believe that good things can be around the corner. This links to my last post about Conor McGregor and how easy it is to think positive in the good times. This is where we show are character and experience. Let’s face it all good intentions go out the window when we feel anxious and worried.

Like Mike Tyson said,  “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face!”
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Our minds often veer to the negative side, to make things worse before you know the outcome.

The Stoic Seneca wrote, “Many are harmed by fear itself, and many have come to their fate while dreading fate.”

How true this is. We build up stories of how things are going to work out, as if we are fortune tellers. We picture negative scenarios more than positive ones. Before a job interview we think, what if I don’t have a good answer? Why not think – this interview is going to go as well as possible, I’ll give it my all. Can you see the difference? The first one is out of our control ie we may not have a good answer. But the second positive thought is well within our control. We need to focus on what we can control and influence and learn to avoid thoughts that we have no say in.

I agree it’s easier said than done.

So start small, start with a traffic light, don’t get frustrated over the colour of a light! Don’t get wound up when waiting for a coffee. Start from the easiest point and work up. It does work but takes practice.

Three options

Naval Ravikant said, “In any situation in life you have three options…You can change it, or you can leave it,.What is not a good option is to sit around wishing you would change it but not changing it, wishing you would leave it but not leaving it, and not accepting it. It’s that struggle, that aversion. that is responsible for most of our misery. The phrase that I probably use the most to myself in my head is just one word: accept.” *

A great quote from one of my favourite podcasts from the Tim Ferriss show.

To focus on what we can influence is a skill I need to learn.


* Taken from Tim Ferriss – Tools of Titans book, page 548. This book is great, very useful in all areas of life.



Positive from a negative use anxiety to win or learn!

Never lose hope be positive

Stress tests my positive mental attitude!

The last few weeks have tested my positivity and made me question myself. I can see by looking back on the early posts that I wrote them in a positive frame of mind and being honest it’s far easier than right now.

Nothing too bad has happened but my anxiety has risen greatly over the last week.


The usual things that crop up in life and in work.

It brings to mind a quote I heard from Conor McGregor about the law of attraction and how you need to act like you have good things already. I get this. But staying up beat when things are not going well is tough. We must try to believe that brighter days are around the corner. He said having self belief that everything will be alright is easy when things are going well. We can all imagine great possibilities on a sunny day having a beer in a beer garden in July. The hard part he said was doing that when things have gone to shit!

That’s the real test.

Can you do it then?

More to the point can I see the good in the low points?

Preparing yourself is half the battle

Tim Ferriss cites Marcus Aurelius’ quote that he prepared himself by expecting to meet “bad” people everyday. Maybe it comes back to lowering expectations about people and situations. That way there’s no surprises. to be fair I do that more than I used to. It can still affect you when you feel that life is unfair. Dealing with people who treat people like numbers not humans is hard. I don’t think expecting everything to be a bed of roses is negative, I see it as a positive. I will try to be ready for whatever comes my way.

The truth is we can’t change other people

So what can we do?

We can change our reactions. We can change the situation we find ourselves in. If we can’t make a change now, work towards a change. Never complain and do nothing. Fuck that for an attitude. Even taking yourself out of the situation gives you some power, some control. Sometimes we might need to retreat. There’s an old saying from the street, “Run away to fight another day”. Or as an old trainer said to me sometimes you just walk away and that’s it. Don’t worry about pride, do what’s right for you.

So what next?

Where’s the positive in a negative?

  • Firstly I can see what’s going on. I’m not lost in stress and anxiety.
  • Yes anxiety is in my body and mind but I understand what’s happening.
  • I have stepped out of the situation to assess options.
  • I’m reminded that it’s easy being positive when your positive.
  • Try it when you’re under pressure, that’s a real skill.
  • It has given me a chance to practice what I preach.
  • I’ve trained harder than normal and appreciate my body and how it makes you feel better after a work out.
  • I need to make more effort to change my situation, as only I can do that.
  • I feel better after writing this and need to write more.

Sometimes you need a rant.

But this is life and it’s tough sometime.

Win or learn.

Get active to beat anxiety

You’re not the odd one out!

I was speaking to a work friend today who split up with his partner and the thing that struck me was he thought his girlfriend was cool about the split. This adds stress to the situation. However, as a friend on the outside looking in, I said, “I bet she’s hurting just as bad, but better at hiding it.” This got me thinking in many areas of our lives we imagine it is only ourselves who suffer. This is a common theme, but totally irrational, as stress, anxiety and depression are universal. Understanding this can help us. Let’s face it no one wants to be the odd one out!

Why do we feel this way?

Different people express their emotions in different ways. People’s stress and anxiety comes in many forms. Some people show stress which can be seen in body language e.g. nervous energy, faster breathing and aggression (which is normally fear). However, many people are great actors, hiding stress and anxiety. Sometimes pride or not wanting to be different makes people hide their emotions. Most high achieving people I have spoken to readily admit to getting anxious and stressed. This has often surprised me as many people appear to be cool and calm on the outside. It’s how you view it that counts.

What makes people thrive under pressure?

There is not one answer, however realising that you aren’t the only one who has these inner battles can motivate us to develop the skills, tactics and mind-set to conquer whatever fear we may face. You can do this.

Think outside the box

We need to learn from adversity. Knowing we are the same as the vast majority of people, that we are no different to others going through similar personal battles should give us the motivation to change for the better. Why is this true? It’s true because people cope.  People get through hard times. The more I think about anxiety the more I think it’s a problem to be systematically solved. Think of it as a challenge. Change the way you view it. As in meditation step outside it, observe it, separate yourself from anxiety. Take the power away. Think outside the box. Take action.

Accentuate the positive to reduce the negative 

Flood your mind with positive thoughts and actions. How do you do this? If you enjoy running and can’t wait to go for a run after work, there’s less space for anxious thoughts to be present. You can’t think about a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. Think about the good active things in your day.

Get active

Go for a run, lift weights, learn MMA, hike, climb a mountain,  ride a bike, play football, the list is endless. There will always be something you can do to lift your mood, improve yourself and chip away at the anxiety. You don’t lose fat by thinking, “Please fat go away” but by training and having a better diet. Good habits develop good thoughts.

Use your head!

On a more intellectual level learn something new.  This could be writing, playing chess, reading, photography, coding, or painting. Again, the list is endless.


Another thing to do is meditate. Start now. There’s no excuse. The resources are literally at your fingertips. You know the smart phone you’re reading this on! There is an abundance of YouTube videos and free podcasts to learn all you need to know about mediation. Keep trying different forms until you find one that suits you. I have tried Audio Dharma, Gil Frondsal is a favourite, Tara Brach is another great teacher and Sam Harris. Also apps like Headspace are very popular today. Start with a couple of minutes. If you can do 10 minutes just do 5 minutes that way you won’t get bored.

Positive changes require positive actions

The three areas above – fitness, learning something new and mediation have no downside. If you put these into your life great improvements will be made. Positive changes require positive actions.

Play the long game

Taking the above actions won’t magically make anxiety disappear. However it will start to flood your mind with positive thoughts which will diminish anxiety over time. Don’t rush, play the long game. After all your anxiety probably took months or years to embed as a habit, and I truly believe it is a bad habit. So don’t try to change a habit by thinking, “I wish this would go away”, but change it by creating a new positive habit.  Be patient, as good things will come. Remember hope comes in many forms. Also remember to not take action is means no change will be made to improve your anxiety levels. Take a minute to let that sink in.

Do you want to get better? If you do, do something about it.

We win or we learn

Never forget you are not the only one who goes through life with problems, stress and worry. Use the realisation that others have the same stresses but still cope as fuel to better yourself. Use the above tactics. Work out the tactics that suit you, that give you the best advantage, play to your strengths. Look inside yourself and see what makes you happy. Make a commitment, make the first step, you won’t regret it. You may not win all the time. However, learn the lesson and take something from the experience. You’ll be surprised but there is nearly always something positive to take from adversity. As Conor Macgregor said, “We win or we learn.”

What are the positives you have taken from a bad time in your life?

The athlete with anxiety is a rare sight!

Anxiety and the athlete

Sometimes we don’t see what is right before our eyes. How many times have we watched the New York, London or Berlin marathon but missed something more than outstanding physical endurance? How many times have we watched the World Cup and only admired the beautiful game and great goals? Or watched world championship boxing, only noticing great technique and tremendous heart? We watch, but miss something that can change lives. Sport helps fight anxiety and this far outweighs winning or losing. This applies from amateur level to the highest professional level in sport.

The power of sport

The beauty and power of sport to transform an anxious mind and body is for all to see. Whether in team sports like football and rugby or solo pursuits like running and martial arts. Like many challenges in life, the pleasure comes after the pain. The effort you put in is equal to the gains you take out. I doubt many people love their first run, the first time in the gym or getting jabbed in the mouth in a boxing ring! Taking positive action and not giving in to the pain brings great rewards.

Sport transforms an anxious mind and body. Action is the key. Action is the only way to overcome mental and physical pain.

You never know how great the food is by looking at the menu. Obvious I know.  However the point is worth making and applies to all areas of life. Small steps build momentum. I love a small step, a small step means you have started. A small step means you’re on your way.

The shy athlete 

Look at the confidence of Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather , or Christiano Ronaldo. These may be extreme examples of confidence but sport develops confidence at all levels. If you have ever witnessed an amateur 10 km race, before during and after, you will see confidence, energy and passion in abundance. This is the antithesis of the person living with anxiety.

Body and the mind as one 

The connection between body and mind is well established in eastern philosophy. Anyone who trains the body knows this connection. Meditation is an amazing tool for quieting the anxious mind. Exercise can be a form of meditation. For example I believe the runner’s high is a form of meditation and demonstrates the connection between body and mind. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger described lifting weights to meditation –  the body and mind as one.

Hope comes in many forms

To conclude sport and exercise are vital tools to fight anxiety. I would go further and say it should be integrated in our lives on a daily basis. It relaxes muscles, which in turn relaxes the mind and keeps us living in the moment. After a workout I feel like the future is going to be bright. Positive goals and plans come to mind. Anxiety is a habit ingrained in the body that repeats for no good reason and exercise breaks the cycle of nervous energy. Exercise chips away at the anxiety and builds a subtle confidence in us. We often don’t realise the benefits of exercise until we stop doing it.

Tony Soprano once said “Hope comes in many forms”. Momentum can be built. If you can’t run, walk, if you can’t lift weights, target one press up. Break it down in to manageable chunks. Don’t take my word for it, just do it, see for yourself.






For a happy life choose habits not resolutions

I’ve never been one for New Years resolutions.

If it’s something you couldn’t change in August or October what makes you think you can do it in January?

On reflection I do think January is a good time to start adding or subtracting good and bad habits for life and not only this coming year.

Some of the habits I want to stop are –


Most of the complaints we make don’t help us in any way. I’m not talking about a bad service in a restaurant, it’s when we complain about traffic lights or complain about your job when only you can change the situation (basically complaining about yourself).  If we can change the situation for example we’re unfit or overweight complaining doesn’t help. Just take action. If we can’t change the situation like bad weather all the complaining in the world won’t change it.

All in all complaining is a habit I need to get rid of and I think the benefits will be great for my anxiety as it will leave space for a positive outlook to form based on dealing with issues rather than always looking to the negative. I’m getting there slowly but surely.


Don’t try to be perfect

This is not practical and slows progress. No decision is worse than a bad decision! You may not be the best runner, footballer, writer or chef in the world but waiting for the perfect circumstances won’t help you get there. Trying will, taking action will. Making mistakes leads to progress, making mistakes leads to feedback.

The question to ask is did you try your best in the circumstances.

I’ll leave it as the above three for now I’m not perfect.