Is Stress Inevitable or a Choice?
Stress Management Tips
The other day I saw a coffee cup that read: “Stress is Caused by Giving a F@%&”. That’s one take, but I’ve got a different one:
Stress is the result of holding expectations that are out of alignment with reality.
What happens when you expect your relatives to finally get along at the next holiday party, but they don’t? Stress. Or when you try to get more work done than can be accomplished in a workday? Stress. What happens when we expect things to go well on a blind date and instead the night is awkward and strained? Stress.
What would happen if, instead of paying attention to expectations, we were simply open to experiencing what is actually occurring? A lot less stress.
Aim for the stars, absolutely! Those who follow their hearts and live their dreams but also live with the awareness that in reality, things don’t always go as planned experience much less stress in their lives.
The key? Realize expectations are only fantasies. An expectation is merely an expression of how you want things to go—just knowing that takes a lot of the kick out of dinner cancellations, rained-out games and catching a cold on vacation.
In a traffic jam? Re-frame and replace the stressful, reality-fighting thought of “I have to get to work on time!” with “There’s nothing I can do about this. Next time I’ll leave earlier. Today I can enjoy this ride by talking with a friend/listening to some music/noticing the beautiful scenery.”
Motivational comedian Kyle Cease sells shirts that say, “I hope I screw this up!” Why? To remind him that what’s important is the experience, enjoying the moment and responding to what’s really happening rather than trying to stick with a pre-made plan that may no longer work for him or for the situation—or worse—trying to be perfect. How many times do we forget to enjoy what’s going on around us because we’re trying to say the right thing, not appear this way or that, or to get others’ approval? Living life from a point of authenticity can be an incredibly freeing paradigm shift.
Remember the old saying “live and let live”? There’s a lot of wisdom there. We can often dial down the stress in our lives simply by taking responsibility for our own thoughts and actions, letting others do their thing and realizing that getting what we want (our expectations), is not always on the agenda.
In Health and Happiness,
Dr. Richard Gerardo
D.C., C.S.C.P., D.A.C.B.N.