And if you spend more than five minutes reading global news headlines each day — you know that plugging into what the rest of the world is up to will only amp up that stress.
And it’s not because you are just that more aware of the current problems in the world.
It’s because when you have that information — you react to it negatively.
Stress comes from you
Stress is not something that happens to you.
It’s your reaction to the potentially stressful events in your life.
There’s a difference.
Learn to follow your stress
The next time you start to feel stressed out, take a moment to step back.
Take a deep breath.
And say to yourself: “I’m feeling this stress right now because of how I am reacting to my life.”
Then take another breath if you want to. And get right back to feeling the stress, whatever it was.
The point is to be mindful of your stress, not to have to change or control it. Because it’s in surrendering to it that you have any chance to transcend it without sabotaging your emotional health in some indirect way.
Your stress leads somewhere
When you really do this right, your subconscious mind will pick up on the cue and run with it. It will start to take inventory of all the events that could be leading to your stress complex. It will replay all the nasty things that might have been said to you, or all the mean-spirited self-talk that’s occupied your thoughts. It will recount all the obstacles that you encountered in the past hour, and the severity of each.
And if you’re on good terms with your emotional self — which is just one part of your multidimensional self by the way — your subconscious might even be confident enough in you to throw up some uncomfortable feelings for you to deal with (which are most likely the root cause of your reaction to the stressors).
But that’s okay, because if you’ve been reading here, you know it’s safe to go there.
And you know it’s actually intelligent and healthy to do so.
Why mindfulness is a must
When you can become mindful of your stress, and successfully follow your subconscious mind’s journey through time, memory, and emotion — suddenly the story behind your stress will come into view, which then makes it more manageable.
You’ll start to see how your thoughts and emotional reactions play a direct role in your experience of feeling stressed. In other words — you’ll see how they co-create it.
And you’ll start to notice that when you can lay out all the potential stressors that have agitated you so — that they really aren’t so bad. And that you have so many choices before you right now to change things for the better.
Because after you externalize your stressors into a written journal entry, a verbal declaration, or through some other concrete expression, you can tone them down from their monster-like personas to very basic ideas.
Get back to basics
In a brilliant foray into how Sesame Street teaches you how to be a better blogger, Sonia Simone at Copyblogger nails the three basic ingredients of the successful children’s show:
“Letters. Numbers. Emotional or confusing situations faced by preschool children. That’s about it.”
Pretty simple, huh?
If only it were that simple for you, right?
If only you were “bogged” down with the stresses that a preschooler faces, and were forced to watch Sesame street reruns to better “cope” and develop successful life skills.
The basics are easier to cope with
Well, guess what? You are bogged down by letters, numbers, and emotional or confusing situations. Those very things will follow you for the rest of your life.
You may not be stuck on the letter N, but you do have to get your communication straight — or serious relationship problems will result.
You may already know how to count to ten, but you still have to attend to your finances and time management — or you’ll throw your sanity out the window.
And just by virtue of being human and living in a human society, emotional or confusing situations make up much if not most of all your social interaction.
So the next time you start to feel the stress coming in, I dare you to follow it. Follow it mindfully, and see if it might take you right back to the beginning. Back to basics. Back to letters or numbers or sticky situations.
Right back to realizing what’s most important in your life, and why. And what’s worth feeling a little stress over every now and then.