Three easy reminders/tips for stress-free living.
Have you ever been so wound up or agitated over something that didn’t go your way that you felt like you were either going to erupt in an angry outburst, spewing molten words like lava incinerating anyone in your path or implode like a dying star or a submarine that drifted too deep? Or perhaps you felt like a ball of string so tightly spooled that you couldn’t find either end to even begin to unwind?
I know I have. Many times.
Yet, no matter how spiritually fit or grounded or calm I think I am I still get uptight over some of the tiniest things such as traffic, long lines, being placed on hold forever while waiting to talk to a customer service rep at the DMV or tech support for internet service. And I often feel the same negative emotions—frustration, anger, resentment, when others fall short of my “reasonable” expectations.
Then there is the slew of standards I have of myself to hit my goals, to be a decent human, and to do what I said I was going to do even when I don’t want to. My frequent problem is that I am driven and sometimes my drive to succeed gets in the way of my own success.
I read something in recovery literature a while ago that has stuck (sorry I can’t find the exact reference), to paraphrase it said that my expectations are inversely proportional to my level of serenity. That unless I learn to let go of my expectations I will not be at peace.
The first time I read it I could feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck and a snarl form on my upper lip. How dare they (whoever they are), tell me I can’t expect things of myself or others? Don’t they know how driven I am? How hard I try to be the best human I can be? Is it really too much to expect others to do the same?
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Those few lines poked at me like a sticker in my sock.
90% of my stress is rooted in some form of self-centered fear often triggered by unmet or unrealistic expectations. It took many years of therapy and recovery to not just figure that out but to accept it and to begin to change how I respond to situations that don’t go my way.
And, I am still working on it. Probably will be for the rest of my life.
So, what can we do to combat the inevitable anger, sadness, fear of missing out or rejection, or disappointment that will continue to arise in our lives?
It’s easy—develop a new response. New habits.
Well, that sounds easy but what exactly does that mean? I’m glad you asked.
- Pause. When agitated take a deep breath and exhale. Say or do nothing foolish, merely focus on your breath.
- Breathe. Yes, that is part of #1. But it needs to be intentionally controlled. For example, take a series of three — 10 breaths. Breathing in slowly and then exhaling slowly. It would also benefit to practice yoga and some form of prayer or meditation. But in the heat of the moment, I doubt you have your yoga mat handy, instead, you can pause and breathe wherever you are.
- Release. As you practice one and two above bring your focus onto the deep exhale and release all that negativity. The stress. The fear. the anger. The sadness. Imagine it draining out of you as flushing the toilet after a big shit. Then close the lid, wash your hands and go about your day.
These three tips can be effective in the short term, but the emotional attachment and reactions we have to stressors will continue to return and will never completely go away until we find their source.
Another key I learned in personal study, therapy, recovery, and practice is to not fight the feelings when they arise. To feel the anger, the fear, and the sadness, and rather than resisting it, ask a question.
Ask, what is this trying to teach me right now? Then sit with it and find a safe place to release your feelings.
Lastly, you may want to seek professional help, especially for ongoing problems. As a good friend says you don’t have to do it alone. Help is just a phone call away. 911 operators will say, “help is on the way.”
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Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash.