I'm sure you know what it is to feel stressed. Rushing here and there, having too much work, not enough sleep, too many responsibilities, no time to just chill and enjoy life. Seems all of us are in that same boat, right?
I understand that life can be full of obligations and deadlines. I'm no stranger to hard work, long days and struggling to find time for my family or myself. And I know what it means to feel stressed, too.
Some of us have learned a really cool little secret about stress. It may be a little secret, but it sure packs a big punch. It's so simple, you'll wonder why such a lot of people are still going on about being stressed all the time.
This is a big concern, really, because the mental, emotional and physical effects of stress are significant, not to mention the negative impact it has on relationships, work environments and families. If all of those people knew this secret, it could make a very positive difference indeed.
Are you sitting down? Okay, here's the secret: The only way you can feel stressed is if you believe stress exists.
Now, don't throw rocks at my house or your computer at my head. Let me explain.
First, just what is stress? Well, back in the Dark Ages when I was studying psychology, the instructor defined it as the feeling we get when we're prevented from accomplishing something we've set out to do. I've thought about that many times down the years when contemplating my own feelings of being stressed.
Secondly, that same instructor taught me another valuable little nugget of information when she explained that it's not an event or situation that causes our response to it, but it's what we believe about it that makes us react the way we do. In between the event and the response, there is a belief squished into the middle like a bit of horseradish in a sandwich: You can't see it, but you sure know it's in there.
So how do these two little bits of wisdom help you to stop feeling stressed? Easy peasy. You roll them into one and you change your perception of what's going on.
Imagine that you're late for an appointment. You're stuck in traffic. You're crazy punctual so this drives you mental. But there you are, stuck. There's not a thing you can do about it. You can't drive over the other vehicles (although you may be sorely tempted). You can't go between or around them. All you can do is just sit there. And wait.
So what do you do? Sit and stew? Fuming, and fretting? Perhaps swearing at the person or people who are creating this nightmare? Making yourself sick with anxiety, staring at the clock in your car every 12 seconds, and thinking about nothing but how you're going to be late, be late, for a very important date? And of course, you feel stressed. Very, very stressed.
Is any of that making the cars move any quicker? Is it getting you to your appointment any sooner? Of course not. You're stressed because you're late, and what's my problem, thinking that you have to "believe in stress" in order to have it? Isn't it quite normal to feel stressed in such a circumstance?
Perhaps it is. But that doesn't mean it's right. Or good for you. Or that you can't change it.
If you were to change your perspective and accept that for now, you are stuck in traffic, it would go a long way to making you feel better. If you changed your anxious thoughts to calm and positive ones, you would relax almost immediately.
Instead of sitting there stewing about how late you are, tell yourself that the earth won't stop because of it. Tell yourself that you'll get there when you get there, and that this must be the universe's way of making you slow down and just relax.
Look at your surroundings. Can you see buildings? Admire the architecture. Contemplate how they were built or who lives or works inside them. Can you see trees and nature? Enjoy the view. Think of all the birds, animals and insects who are making their homes in all that greenery.
Take lots of slow, deep breaths, inhaling a sense of peace and calm, and envision letting out your "stress" when you exhale. Focus on accepting the situation, and just work on staying relaxed and in the present moment. There's no point in worrying about the future moments; they will take care of themselves when you get there. And there's no point in worrying about the previous ones, because you can't do a thing about them now.
Just enjoy this present moment, right here, right now, and accept that you are doing your best to get where you need to be, or to accomplish whatever it is you're trying to do. The moment you accept a situation and stop trying to push the river is the first moment you begin to let go of stress.
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