The way to beat stress is to start fantasizing... sexually. Forget yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy. In fact, forget relaxation altogether since the best way to beat stress, advises an American stress guru, is to get the adrenaline pumping by fantasizing about your deepest sexual desires, ‘'the wilder the better”.
1. Fantasizing is better than valium
Fantasizing about yourself sharing a night of passion with your favourite celebrity may not be the most orthodox way of treating stress. But, says Craig Mardus, an American expert on the subject, it works every time.
“When people go for counselling about stress they think they are supposed to feel calm”, points out Mardus, who has spent 11 years researching and treating stress at the prestigious Canyon Ranch Spa in Massachusetts. “They would like to feel relaxed when they’re upset. That’s why they turn to drugs. They take something like Valium because they think you can be relaxed and upset at the same time.”
It doesn’t work like that. You have to deal with the problem, advises Mardus, and one of the best ways of doing so is to start fantasizing. When it comes to the content of such fantasies, Mardus’s advice is clear: “the wilder the better”.
2. Fantasizing gives you a rush of pleasure
Fantasize about yourself sharing a night of passion with Brad Pitt or Cameron Diaz, advises Mardus, and don’t hold back. The aim is not to feel relaxed; it is to feel excited. That way, the debilitating worry of anxiety is replaced with a rush of pleasure. “Usually, you’ll notice you’re smiling,’ says Mardus. ‘If not, you’re not in the right motel.”
Fantasizing in this way is a radical new approach to stress relief. But Mardus believes that relaxation techniques are inappropriate when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. “If hot tubs were the answer, they’d be in every office and club and I’d be selling them.” But the goal of his technique is not to feel relaxed; it’s to feel in control. There is a big difference. Fantasizing puts you in the driving seat.
3. Fantasizing releases “good adrenaline”
Mardus developed his ideas about fantasizing after measuring adrenaline levels with biofeedback. Hook someone up to a biofeedback machine, he explains, and it’s like a lie detector test. If they’re pumping adrenaline, the machine will know.
While working with a skydiver, Mardus noticed that the man was smiling, despite the stressful memories of the sport. At first, Mardus couldn’t understand it… Then a theory emerged.
“Before you go skydiving, you think, ‘That looks like fun, it’s so cool’. So you decide to go up and then you’re in the plane at 3,000 feet, standing in the doorway. Now you have something called terror. You would like to commit suicide. It gets worse. The moment you jump, you have no control of the situation, you imagine all the things that might go wrong, and it generally feels horrible.”
“Then you pull the ripcord. The moment you do, that second that the chute opens, you feel, ‘This is so great’. All that terror turns to excitement. You turn what I call ‘bad adrenaline’ into ‘good adrenaline’ and it only takes one second. It’s all the same adrenaline, but the difference is that with the bad adrenaline, the level of control you have is zero.”
4. Fantasizing replaces negative thoughts
This is where the sex and the fantasizing comes in. Like skydiving, sex is all about adrenaline-pumping excitement. “You are definitely not relaxed. You’re charged up, you’re apprehensive but in a good way,” says Mardus.
“Now, say you are worrying about something: your mortgage is ballooning, or you have a job interview or you’re giving a dinner and you’re worrying about how it will turn out. Worrying is all about going into the future, looking for trouble. It’s looking for the worst scenario, though it probably won’t even happen. It’s a form of fantasizing. Now, instead, give yourself another fantasy thought to put in place of this one.”
5. Fantasizing puts you back in control
According to Mardus’s theory, you have two options: risk or risqué. “You can start fantasizing about something risky, like a James Bond scenario, or skydiving, or skiing. Or you can imagine yourself with Eva Mendes, or George Clooney. Don’t put any limits on your fantasizing – worry doesn’t have any limits, so this shouldn’t either – and the worry will disappear.”
“Fantasizing is a tool that you can use to put yourself back into control. You realise that you have a choice. You have to find a way of replacing the worrying thought with an exciting thought, so as to make the switch from bad adrenaline to good adrenaline – and the perfect example of good adrenaline is sex.”
Craig Mardus, PhD, is the author of “How to Stop Worry in One Second” and has spent 11 years treating and researching stress at the Canyon Ranch Spa in Lennox, Massachusetts, USA.