Wednesday, May 18, 2016
HOW TO STRESS LESS
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.– Winston Churchill
Worrying is common in today’s world, to the point where most of us are constantly worrying about, well, everything. Then it blossoms into full blown stress, which can take a strong hold on our lives. It will dictate most of our behaviors, thoughts, and actions- but only if we let it.
This may be surprising, but stress does have a purpose. It directs our attention to something (a situation or other outside influence) that is unpleasant or dangerous, so that we can take necessary action to remove ourselves from it. Usually, our bodies will restore themselves to neutral after the stressor has been removed. When we are under constant stress, the body never has a chance to recover, and that’s when it becomes dangerous to our health. Kris Carr illustrates this mind-body connection in the following: “If you don't think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.” Unfortunately, we live in a society that glorifies being stressed out, which can make breaking free difficult. A good starting point is turning inward.
The first thing to do is pinpoint the source of your stress. There are many theories as to the origins of stress, but one of my favorites is from Eckhart Tolle: “Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’” “Here” could be a physical space, like being stuck in a traffic jam when you need to be “there” at work. It can also refer to wherever you are mentally. This idea also translates into mental space. In essence, our root cause of stress is usually from trying to manipulate situations beyond our control and the ensuing frustration when things don’t go according to plan. Take some time to reflect on the situations that are generating feelings of stress in your life. How many of them are beyond your control?
The next step is releasing yourself from this burden, which is another inside job. Expecting someone else to remove the stress from you inevitably creates an unhealthy dynamic, for starters, and can also breed further stress and resentments. Relieving yourself of stress means re-evaluating how the aforementioned situations trigger a stress response. Is it a situation we can remove ourselves from? If not, how can we change our perspective or attitude toward the situation in a way that reduces stress? This requires some deep digging. In all likelihood, it will also mean letting go and accepting that certain things are beyond our control, and that’s okay.
Stress isn’t all bad, but when it starts taking over our lives and well-being, it may be time to sit down with ourselves and look at what’s really going on. As we move through life, good and bad things will happen, we can only control our response: “A diamond is a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well” (unknown).