Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, May 28, 2021. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
With few exceptions, we create our own stress.
In no way do I deny the hardships that certain groups of people are facing, the challenges associated with the pandemic, climate change, and the disproportionate economic situation that we find ourselves in. In no way do I deny the real difficulties that we experience at work, in relationships, and in traffic. However, while these circumstances may in fact be the conditions for stress to arise, like happiness, stress is an inside job.
I get it, it can be trying to work with difficult people, maintain a healthy relationship with friends, family, and lovers. It can be hard to be confident about your finances in these uncertain times. Nevertheless, it is not these situations themselves that cause stress. What causes stress is how we react to these difficult situations.
Stress typically arises from our tendency to believe that things should be different than they are.
Though I suffered from worry, stress, and tension as a child, it wasn’t until my mid-30’s that was officially diagnosed with anxiety disorder of the panic type. I was prescribed medication and was told that I would need to take it for the rest of my life. The medication definitely helped, for a while. Fortunately, I’ve been off of the meds for over 12 years meow. It’s not that I was cured of the disorder, I’m not certain that I ever had one. I came to understand the true source of my stress producing anxiety (If you are on medication for anxiety, this is not an invitation to stop taking it. I had professional guidance. This is my experience). The primary source of my stress was the fear-based fact the I didn’t feel like I was good enough, exactly as I was. Though I was successful in many ways, I felt less than. Though I had much, I felt empty. In essence, it was my lack of acceptance for who I thought I was that created my debilitating stress (and depression).
When we think things should be different than they are, we are arguing with reality. When we argue with reality, we lose. Stress is that loss. When we react to life’s challenges from a place of discontentedness, instead of accepting reality as it is, we have a strong tendency to try to control and manipulate situations into something more in alignment with our personal preferences. Unfortunately, trying to control things outside of us is in fact another significant source of stress. This has a snowballing effect. The less we accept, the more we try to manipulate. The more we manipulate, the more we’re stressed.
My experience would suggest that most of us have little conscious awareness that we are taking part in this cycle of unacceptance and control. We tend to become so intoxicated by our own lack of acceptance towards something displeasing, that the only thing that makes sense, in that moment, is to fix what is so obviously wrong, whatever it may be. We may think to ourselves, “This is the source of my stress. Once it is taken care of, everything will be just fine.” And so, the cycle begins.
There is often confusion here. A thought may arise suggesting that, “If I must accept this situation exactly as it is, then I must approve of it and therefore don’t need to change it.” This is not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting is that it is our lack of acceptance that is a source of stress, not the situation itself. If we can accept the situation exactly as it is, whatever it may be, we reduce stress and are in a much better state of mind to show up to whatever is happening in a way that we feel good about. In developing the asset of acceptance, we develop resilience – the ability to quickly recover from challenges. We don’t have to live challenged – stressed.
This last week, I checked in with the office before I left for home. I asked what busing assignment they had for me the next day. I was told that I would be driving a special needs bus and that my first passenger was in a wheelchair. “I don’t do wheelchairs” I immediately thought to myself! I’ve been trained, but in the last 5 years, I’ve never had a wheelchair passenger. Plus, I like my comfort zone. I had the awareness of tension developing throughout my body. It was palpable. I asked myself, “what’s going on here?” I was scared and didn’t want to do it. There was a strong urge to argue with the reality that they needed me to do this. Nevertheless, I was able to take a breath and respond with a couple questions on how much help I would have. I was assured that I could do it and the aids on the bus would assist. Though I had reservations and some tension for a bit, by the time I got home an hour later, I was excited for the opportunity.
This kind of accepting response is relatively new for me and is a result of a comprehensive Mindfulness practice. It’s taken time, effort, and quite a few botched attempts, however, quickly adjusting to what is happening in each moment and responding to reality as it is – not as I think it should be – is more and more becoming a part of my meaningful life. This is an option for you too. I am here to help.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
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