Stress is one of those words. We can all agree on the literal definition, but the word carries such strong personal history, it can mean different things to different people. Some people may believe that stress is a measurement for a job worth doing or a job well done or even a measure of their self-worth. Most people will say that they don’t want it, but many people will wave the flag of too much stress as a banner of achievement and merit.
Let’s agree that stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances“. Let’s pay attention to the word adverse, even the dictionary is saying, stress is bad. However, we’ll need to agree that since it’s a “mental or emotional” response to circumstances, everyone will recognize stress differently and in diverse areas of their lives. So while I may be able to sit in a mini-van with three lively chatting, loudly laughing and singing 11 year olds (at least on most days) not everyone could handle that.
It’s that “different” bit that makes is hard for us to recognize when we are personally suffering from stress related “mental or emotional strain”. We look around and see other people doing what we are doing and they seem fine, so we can’t figure out why we aren’t. We see other people, maybe even have it harder, and seem ok… so why do we struggle?
The fact is, we spend more time judging ourselves against our perception of what we think other people are feeling, then understanding ourselves and how we feel. For the moment, this isn’t about anyone else, this is about you. You are in charge of what you think, and how you think about the things you think about. If you make a decision to do something, you need to decide how you are going to think about it.
How do I propose to explain how to easily reduce stress? Simple. I’m going to help you understand how you are experiencing stress and how it is affecting you, and you are going to agree to change how you think about it.
Step One: Recognizing Stress
The first step to an easy stress relief is to recognize when you are experiencing stress. Whether you are chatting with friends, taking instruction from a boss, driving on the highway or dropping your car off for service, you are the only one that knows if you are experiencing stress. You must decide to recognize when you are stressed.
This is easily done by checking in with yourself through the day. Ask, “Am I happy?” or “Am I content?” or “Am I feeling abundant?” If the answer to the question you ask is no, than it’s time to determine what you are feeling.
This is usually easily done by finishing a few “I am”. I suggest you finish the statement “I am feeling” 5 times and see what you’ve written. For instance, saying:
I am feeling… bored
I am feeling… scared
I am feeling… under-appreciated
I am feeling… frustrated
I am feeling… used
(Keep it short, and don’t explain. This isn’t about why you are feeling a certain way, it’s not about the person, place, circumstance or situation that you believe is causing you to feel something, this is only and completely about how you feel)
Step Two: Tell a different story
Literally tell yourself a different story. Decide to change your “I am” statement to something encouraging and inspiring. If the topic that is oppressing you resonates so negatively that there is no way to flip, then go more general.
For instance, if you feel that your job is soul crushingly oppressive, start by going very general and recognizing the benefit of having a paycheck. Leave it at the positive, don’t get dragged down the negative path of lack.
The hardest part about step two is our habit of cancellation. You know, when we say something positive that’s immediately followed by a negative.
Like a compliment. Someone says, “Did you do something different with your hair, it looks lovely” and you reply, “Oh, really, I just threw it up to get it out of my eyes”
Step two is all about the positive statements, no negatives. You need to learn to accept compliments, especially from yourself.
Now, change your “I am” statements to something more from your imagination of a perfect situation.
I am worthy
I am powerful
I am in charge
I am filled with joy and abundance
I am skilled
Step Three: Whenever possible, imagine happiness
Step three may seem redundant, but the difference between steps two and three are intention. Step two is telling you that once you’ve recognized your stressful situation, decide to turn it around. Step Three is pro-active.
Don’t wait for stress, decide today, at multiple moments throughout the day to be happy. Choose something, your purse, your shoes, your computer screen saver, a cloud rolling by your window of a funny thing you kids said the other day, choose happiness. Imagine happiness. Decide that when you have a moment to think, you are going to make it a moment of happiness, joy and abundance.
Summary: Seems too easy, right? Here’s the thing, how you feel about what you feel about is completely and totally in your control. You are the only person that can create or change how you feel about things.
All our lives people have been telling us how we should feel about things, and I’ll admit it’s difficult to get out of that default setting. And your level of relief is going to be different than mine. However, if you want to live your life you need to recognize that you are the one making the decisions. Take control of your life, imagine happiness.