What is the stress in your life? The actual definition of stress is an emotional strain on the body. However, I think we tend to use the word like it’s a living thing instead of simply a reaction of our own thinking. The reality is that we can’t bottle stress up and give it away, we can’t take it from someone or leave it on the kitchen table. Stress is the result of what we feel after experiencing stressful thoughts. In those terms, if we limit or reduce the stressful thinking; we reduce the experience of stress. Simple, right? Ha! Even as I write that statement I realize how difficult it is to let that sit. Stress is real. I feel it, I experience it.
The problem is that I don’t often take the time to think through to the source of stress. It’s easier to say, “yeah, work is stressing me out’ than it is to actually process what is happening and what I could reasonably do about it. Oh wait, that’s part of the problem. Because when I feel stressed out, I start thinking about the fact that I may not be able to do anything about it. And of course, the other twisted part of this whole stress reaction is its kissing cousin, worry. Worry is also a source of thoughts that typically involve anxiety or concern about a real or imagined situation. I mean, has there ever been a time in your life when worrying about something helped the situation? Or made you feel better?
Hmm, I’m sensing some themes here. So if we think stressful thoughts and worry about things that may or may not happen we essentially cause our own emotional and mental strain on our bodies. Now, I’m not going all crazy and suggesting that we never experience stress or worry. But maybe if we realize that when the stressful thoughts occur or the worry happens, we simply acknowledge it and spin it into a less stressful thought that includes a solution, support, or strength. For instance instead of thinking “all this work is stressing me out” could be “how can I take better care of myself and organize my work to make it feel more manageable?” Granted, it may be tough to find a positive spin or proactive approach for each situation, but it’s a lot easier to think about actions I can take to change a situation or simply cope rather than get caught up in the relentless space of fear, worry, and stress. Yes, if I have to choose, I will always choose a space of hope versus stress or worry. Now I just have to practice making that conscious choice instead of falling into the habit of an automatic way of thinking. 🙂