Breathe It In

It seems to me that we spend too much time being stressed out, worked up, and wound up about all sorts of stuff these days. Sound familiar to you at all? Whether it comes from an innate need to control things, a strong attachment to a desired outcome, some kind of learned behavioral response, or a general lack of coping skills, it is amazing to me how stressed out people are in today’s world. (And sadly it is not limited to adults…I see it as a growing problem among kids too.) Put another way, there’s a general lack of relaxation, happiness and enjoyment in most people’s lives. And those who do live a life that is more relaxed and happy (aka less stressed) often get labeled as “lucky”. They are the ones people look at and ask, “how do you do that?” as if being able to limit the stress in your life was some sort of top secret formula only a few have access to.

The truth is there is no special formula and it is not a matter of luck. It is merely a matter of choice. Life will always throw things at us, ready or not, and it is how we choose to respond to those things that will dictate many things to come (our stress level, our happiness, our impact on others, the impact on our overall health, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I know that some things can feel so overwhelming that you may not think there is any other choice but to feel stressed out or worked up. I never meant to insinuate that the choice is always an easy one…but there is always the choice. And I think the perspective from which you start has a lot to do with your ability to choose a less stressful path.

By perspective I don’t mean “glass half full vs. half empty”, though that can be a part of it as well. What I mean is coming to terms with the fact that life will always throw curve balls at you…that is what life does. You may not always know what is coming, but you can rest assured things will come. Acceptance of that fact alone can help mitigate the emotions that might otherwise rear their ugly head when something comes your way. Heck, it can even help you reach a point where you laugh at some of the crazy things that previously would have frustrated and stressed you. In fact, changing your perspective to one of “what lesson is there here for me” can also go a long way toward reducing stress. Just knowing that things happen for a reason and working toward accepting and understanding that can really help. (You may not recognize what the lesson is right away, but knowing there is one and being on the lookout for it can help you remain a little less stressed in the midst of things.)

We have all experienced things that, depending on our mood and/or the context of the situation, have set us over the edge into that place of stress, frustration…maybe even anger. It may have been the loss of a loved one, an accident, a health diagnosis, the loss of a job, a broken piece of household equipment, waking up late, receiving unwanted news, a situation not turning out the way you had hoped it would, the grocery store being out of your favorite type of food, getting a lower grade on a test than you thought you would, having to cancel a trip you had been wanting to go on for a long time, a divorce, someone cutting you off on your way to work, a less than helpful customer service representative, not being able to find anything good on TV, your pet making a mess in your house, your children not sleeping through the night, getting sick right before a big presentation at work, etc. The bottom line is we all have experienced it…but the good news is we can all overcome it. Stress and frustration doesn’t have to be our go to response. We can choose a different path. It may take some time…we may have good days and not so good days…but with the right perspective, a little good intention, being aware of our thoughts and emotions, and being honest with ourselves we can become those people who respond to the things that life throws at us with a more relaxed and happy state of being.

So the next time you find yourself feeling stressed, anxious or frustrated, do yourself a favor and stop. Breathe it in. Take just a moment to reflect on the situation, how you are feeling, what you are thinking. Consider what lesson might lie in wait for you. Really stop to think about how big of a deal this thing is and how best you can respond to it. It’s a learned skill that, like all learned skills, takes time to learn and practice to perfect (and let’s be honest since we are all human we will never perfect it, but continually working at it will help us each become a more relaxed, peaceful person…something you and everyone around you will appreciate). Do not stress over everything – choose your battles as they say. Know that life will throw you curve balls and it will be okay. Relax and enjoy life a little more…live life to the fullest and enjoy…that’s how it was meant to be.