What does it look like to eliminate stress in your life? No, it doesn’t look like a made-for-television movie. No, it doesn’t look like something only people with extra time and money can do. It looks like your life — but without any self-created stress triggers. To live stress-free consider saying no to the following:
1. Stop overanalyzing situations that haven’t even happened yet.
It’s easy to spend time in the world of worst-case scenarios. People tend to cultivate this world for one of two reasons. First, because if you know what the worst-case scenario is, then it won’t surprise you when it happens. Second, if you know what the worst-case scenario is, then you can do everything in your power to control the universe so the worst case never happens. If that’s really the world you want to cultivate, then become a professional risk assessor. If not, then ask yourself how you are benefiting from continuing to live that way. Does it make you feel better about yourself and your life? Does it make you want to leap out of bed in the morning eager to embrace the worst-case scenario? Does it bring you joy or fulfillment? If your answer to these three questions is no, then stop it!
2. Stop taking on other people’s problems.
The whole advantage of other people having problems is that they aren’t your problems. When you frequently take on other people’s problems, you get into the habit of enabling. Let’s get crystal clear about the definition of enabling: enabling is the art of continuing to take responsibility for other people, thereby disallowing their personal responsibility. Some people develop addiction to drugs, alcohol or food. Others choose the seemingly kinder, gentler addiction of enabling. It is of no service to other people to take on their problems because they can’t/won’t/don’t know how to fix the problem. It is of service to empower others to take responsibility for themselves and their lives, to encourage, teach and motivate others to address their own problems.
3. Stop living only in the past and the future. Get present in the moment.
Being present in the moment involves being in your body and feeling your feelings — two things that lots of folks actually don’t know how to do. Ask yourself these two questions: What does fear feel like in your body? What are you afraid of? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you probably aren’t able to be present in the moment. Being present involves vulnerability, humility and openness. Being in the past or the future involves living in your head and ignoring what’s going on in your body and emotions. The past and the future stop being so relevant and intriguing when you’re able to be in your body and feel your feelings. When you can do these two things you actually want to be in the present moment.
4. Stop focusing on what you don’t have instead of what you have.
The easiest way to stop focusing on what you don’t have is by not watching television commercials. Marketing teaches us to focus on what we don’t have, and advertising campaigns spend millions of dollars convincing us that we must have what we don’t yet have. Can you think of a marketing campaign that teaches you to enjoy what you already have without buying something to enhance it? Odds are you can’t. In a world dictated by Super Bowl commercials and Facebook ads it takes stalwart focus to recognize what you have more so than what you don’t have. If you want less stress in your life now, get stalwart and stop letting other people dictate your focus.
5. Stop surrounding yourself with people who don’t make you happy.
Honestly, what kind of people do you really like to be around? People who get you, who see you clearly, who accept you flaws and all; people you can be yourself with; people who have shared interests? How many of those people are in your life? What characteristics do all of the other people in your life have? Why are you compromising by continuing to invest time and energy in people who don’t make you happy? Do they make you look good? Do you have a story that you have to or need to spend time with them in order to be a better person or because there is no one else to hang out with? Are you tired of me asking so many questions? Great! Because I’m tired of you spending time with people who don’t make you happy.
May I suggest owning a goldfish instead?
6. Stop working at a job that you see no future with.
You don’t have to stay at a job just because it pays the bills. Most people spend more time working than sleeping. The average person spends 40 to 80 hours a week — or 2,000 to 4,000 hours a year — working. That is a significant investment! If your best friend or child told you that they were going to spend 4,000 hours giving their emotional, mental and physical energy to something (or someone) that wasn’t going to value them, give anything back to them, or pay them what they were worth what advice would you offer? Give that same advice to yourself.
7. Stop taking on more than you can handle.
Busyness is an addiction. Slowing down can actually be terrifying because it causes you to notice that you have feelings and causes you to actually feel them. I get it. By the time I slowed down I had decades of busyness under my belt. I went into a tailspin depression because I didn’t understand how to be in right relationship with my own emotions. When I finally figured out that feelings are just feelings, and allowing them to express themselves is healthy and natural, I stopped experiencing withdrawal from my addiction to busyness and started figuring out the pace of life that felt best for me. Remarkably, I discovered that I don’t actually like being busy. What will you discover about yourself?
8. Stop holding on to grudges and anger.
For me, it took 20 years of adulthood to figure out that holding on to grudges and anger only hurt me. Lucky for you, though, you can benefit vicariously from my experience just by reading one short paragraph!
No one is holding your feet to the fire demanding that you hold on to grudges and anger. The energy of anger slowly eats away at your body, mind and spirit until one day you wake up more resentful than optimistic. One day people no longer want to be around you because the stink of negativity is oozing out of your pores. One day you even get tired of hearing yourself get angry. And the person, or people you are angry at, or holding grudges against, probably haven’t been affected at all. Who gets hurt the most in that process? You do.
9. Stop living too much in your past.
I know it seems like fun to compare everything in your present to your past, and to experience the present through past-colored glasses, but it actually isn’t. When you wear past-colored glasses you can’t truly experience the present for what it is. Your boyfriend or girlfriend gets compared to a list of expectations and failed relationships rather than recognized for the unique blessing they are in your life. Your boss gets compared to all the bosses who came before her. Your friends’ ability to parent gets compared to your parents’ ability to parent. People, including you, deserve to stand on their own past-free merit.
10. Stop complaining about things that can’t be changed.
There are always going to be people elected into office whom you don’t like, taxes that you don’t want to pay, idiot drivers who refuse to move out of the left-hand lane, and a person ahead of you in the check-out line who won’t stop chatting with the clerk. The great benefit of being human is that we get to experience all of what life offers us, the good, the bad and the ugly. Dwelling on your frustration with a situation, person, place or thing that can’t be changed doesn’t do anything other than drag you down. You are the only person who is at ultimate choice to decide how to respond to that which is.
11. Stop living through other people’s lives.
Um, I’m just going to state the obvious here, because sometimes we cannot see what is right in front of our own noses (myself included). Someone else’s life is not your life. Your life is your life. Let me break that down even further. What that means is you get to live your life, and other people get to live their lives. You get to make stupid, ridiculous mistakes, take leaps of faith and stuff things inside your handbag of fear just as much as the next person. And you don’t get to judge that other person for their life choices, or manage their life for them so they don’t have to go through all of what you have gone through. Going through stuff is the whole great messy adventure of being human! Being alive and living life is terrifying and glorious and everything in between. Don’t rob someone else of being able to experience the richness of humanity. And don’t let everyone else have all of the adventure and intrigue; grab some for yourself.
12. Stop focusing only on your weaknesses instead of your attractive qualities.
True confession: I hired a pleasure coach to help me experience more pleasure in my life. Sure, some may call her a sex coach (and she is), but really what I wanted was some support with enjoying myself and my life. I just wasn’t having any fun, and I was more focused on what I thought was wrong with me than what was really right.
Every week for 12 weeks she had me look at myself in a mirror. Like, directly look. With clothes and without. This initially was like slow torture and I avoided my homework assignment as much as possible. Then something remarkable happened in week eight. I was avoiding my homework assignment by making my dog do it (he loves to look at himself in the mirror!), and lo and behold I snuck a glimpse of myself and I was awestruck by the gorgeous woman staring back at me. Give yourself the gift of seeing yourself clearly: you will be amazed by what you discover!
An astounding thing happens when you release stress, get into relationship with your body, mind and spirit, and just be yourself without judgment. Your life literally slows down. You stop wishing for the weekend. You stop merely looking forward to special events. You begin to live in each moment and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy. You move fluidly, steadily, calm and grateful. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born.
Featured photo credit: Create Commons via flickr.com