Getting beyond stress

One of our readers sent the following question: “I'm doing ok, however the stress of it all gets to me every once in a while.  This will happen when multiple projects come due at the same time.  So, if you have any tips to balance your life or deal with the stress that we put on ourselves they would be greatly appreciated.”

The question has me realize that either I’ve never written about dealing with stress or I just haven’t written about it for a long time. In either event, here are my thoughts on the subject.

First of all, let’s take a look at why we create circumstances in our lives that create stress (and in stating that, I do understand that there are times that life creates stress for us with little input from us). I suspect one of the biggest sources of stress is, like the case with the man who wrote me, that we simply take on more than we can realistically handle at any one time. We do that for a number of reasons. A big one is we don’t know how to say “no.” Somehow we feel like we have to respond positively to every request someone makes of us or they won’t like us (and, of course, we want to be liked). This is really crazy and I encourage you to learn to say “no.”

Another reason is that we expect so much of ourselves, this being driven by our inherent insecurities, and somehow we feel like if we take on a lot, we’ll accomplish a lot and then we’ll feel good about ourselves. This too is crazy and you’d be far better off to decide you’re really OK right up front and nothing you do will prove anything about you.

Finally, because we spend so much of our time concerned with our survival, at work we often feel like we have no choice but to say “yes.” Someone of higher authority, whether it be a supervisor, a boss, or even a customer, asks us for something and we’re so afraid of the consequences of saying “no” that we say yes even when we don’t want to. I encourage you to challenge this one too. I know of no case where someone in this type of situation said “no” and paid an unacceptable price for doing so.

Next, as I alluded to earlier, there are times when circumstances just show up unexpectedly and create burdens on us that produce stress. Your dog dies, or a family member, or something you’re counting on doesn’t happen, or any one of a million other circumstances. For example, for me, I’ve been looking for the home of my dreams for many years and several weeks ago, it showed up, in the perfect location, and at an affordable price. I made an offer and it was accepted. I was thrilled and excited.

But for a number of reasons I didn’t anticipate, I have to sell my existing home in order to qualify for financing on the new home. So I put my home on the market and we have proceeded aggressively to find a buyer. But time is running out to close the deal on the new home and there is no buyer in sight. This has the potential of putting me under a lot of stress.

But it hasn’t and it’s because I understand what the source of stress is. You might want to write this down and look at it every day: ALL STRESS COMES FROM RESISTING WHAT IS! And I didn’t say “most” stress, I said “all” stress. That’s the heart of the matter. 100% of what you call stress comes from wanting things to be different than the way they are. That’s what I mean by “resisting.” Life shows up in a particular way but we don’t accept that life is that way. We want life to be the way we want life to be. And that, my friends, is the source of all of it.

So is there a way to actually minimize or even eliminate the stress in your life? Theoretically yes, just accept life the way it is and the way it isn’t. Most of the time, you don’t get to control the way life and people show up around you. Or, when you do, because you take on more than you can realistically handle, there it is in front of you. Just deal with it. Remind yourself frequently of the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

If you can deal with a situation, do it, without resisting or complaining. If you can’t deal with a situation, learn to accept it, without resisting or complaining,.and have that be your only two choices. Because in the final analysis, any other choice will create stress.