Ah, Stress. What a crazy guy.
Have you met him?
Yup, it’s that tightness in your chest. That knot in your stomach. That pounding in your head. That tightness in your jaw.
Stress—or what Buddhists call dukkha—is a part of life.
It’s necessary and sometimes even beneficial. But let’s be honest, we don’t just experience stress in life-or-death situations or in small healthy doses to give us that much needed adrenaline rush. We create stress in our lives on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
Its cause? A simple 10-letter word: resistance.
I have spent the majority of my life uptight, stressed-out, anxious and any other term that describes a person living with a constant stream of stress.
When I realized that I was responsible for 90% of stress in my life, I was thrilled.
When I learned that to end the suffering was as simple as accepting what is moment-to-moment, I was elated.
Now, when I start to feel stressed out—my stomach gets in knots, my blood pressure starts to rise, my voice gets curt—I ask myself “am I resisting or accepting what is?”
Nine times out of 10 I am resisting.
Then, I take a few deep breaths and gently remind myself to accept the situation, and I notice my stressful reactions float away.
There is certainly a time and place for stress. It is a very useful (and even healthy) evolved trait when experienced in small doses. But we no longer only experience stress during a fight-or-flight (or freeze) moment.
Nowadays we experience stress when we run late to a meeting, get stuck in traffic, have a bad hair day, lose an unsaved document from our computer or miss our connection due to a delayed flight.
Has this ever happened to you?
I get hot, frazzled, irritable, my heart beats faster and I sometimes lash out at those around me. When I resist what is, I react in unhealthy, ineffective ways.
Acceptance does not cultivate apathy; acceptance cultivates peace.
When I accept what is, it does not mean that I do not handle it or respond to it, when necessary. It simply means that I create space for responding in a much more balanced and mindful way. Plus, I receive all of the health benefits associated with removing 90% of stress from my life.
Sounds good, huh?
So, next time you start to feel stressed out, ask yourself, “Am I resisting or accepting what is?”
If you are resisting (which is most likely the case), take a few deep breaths, gently remind yourself it is what it is and then figure out how to most effectively respond (if necessary).
Can you recall a time when by resisting what was, you created stress in your body? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
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Apprentice Editor: Carrie Marzo/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Anna Gutermoth / Flickr