September 8, 2015
Stress is common to our culture. Most of us are familiar with that seemingly omnipresent tension and all its related symptoms – sometimes back and neck tension, sometimes headaches, grinding teeth, perhaps a racing heart, lack of sleep, an overactive mind, and so much more.
Most of us who strive to do relive our stress levels look for the immediate release provided by things such as a massage, a vacation, a glass of wine, meditation, yoga, exercise, and so on.
While all those activities can have stress-relieving effects, ultimately, we are set to return to our state of stress once the effects of that particular treatment have gone away. They all (yes, including meditation) can simply be momentary pauses and not yield genuine changes to our overall stress levels.
Stress is entirely an internal condition. When asked, “What brings you stress?” it is common to list our partners, our jobs, our responsibilities, our finances, and other external factors. While all those things are real, and are stressors, what truly causes stress is our reaction to these things.
The great news about this is that since stress is created internally, it can also be resolved internally!
Meditation, yoga, vacation, and all the other stress-relieving practices out there do nothing to change our partners, jobs, responsibilities, finances, or what’s on our to-do list. Meditating can be a wonderful break, but after 20 minutes of sitting, there will be no magical change in your bank account (sadly).
However, this does not mean we are doomed to the binge-and-purge model of stress and relief. The key to a longer-term relief from stress is to change how we look at these external factors.
Typically, when we notice a particular situation, we then compare it to what we want things to look like, or what we feel things are supposed to look like, and note the distance between those two things. It is this distance, and our reaction to this distance, that dictates our stress level.
So the first step in truly dealing with stress is to acknowledge what is present, and accept it as it is. Once we accept things are how they are, we are then able to much more easily address them and make lasting changes.
Suppose you have a long laundry list of items to do. Stress comes from looking at what you want the situation to be (all tasks completed) and seeing what the situation currently is (that none of them are). Instead, what if you can see that your list is long, but trust that all things on it will get done. In this manner, we are able to take on one task at a time, handle it completely and thoroughly, and then move to the next.
In time, you will get to see that most of what you stress about is of much less importance than you had previously considered.
So when you’re feeling that stress pile up in your system, take a pause and ask yourself if there is another way you can look at the current situation that is gentler to yourself, and more productive to getting things done smoothly. You might be surprised at what happens.
Want to explore this for yourself more? Check out our Eight-Week Awareness School coming this month!