Often we try to control our stress by controlling the situation. We clench our fists and work to eliminate whatever is stressing us. Oftentimes that’s not the right approach. A lot of stress is simply out of our control, and seeking to control it is like trying to pick up a beach full of sand: inevitably it’s going to fall through our grasp.
That’s why I think the phrases, “control your stress,” “beat stress,” and “eliminate stress” are all misguided. We can’t micromanage every little element of our life and seek to control it. Paradoxically, that’s only going to increase our stress. Rather than control what life throws our way, we have to manage it. This is especially true for the stresses of life that simply can’t be eliminated.
Let’s say you have to move to a new home. Your job changed and forced you to relocate. There are many different ways we can react to this uncontrollable stress in our lives, and of course this is just an example but you can apply it to almost any stressful situation.
This is, as the name implies, not a healthy way to deal with stress. And itmay be your first initial instinct. When you have a victimhood reaction, not only do you avoid dealing with the situation and pretend it’s not happening, but you have the “why me” attitude which brings you down further. Not only are you not preparing to move, but you’re actively putting yourself in a worse mental space and increasing unnecessary stress just at the thought of it.
After moving through a victimhood feeling, the stress of moving might feel like an impending cloud over your head. However, you act like it’s not happening and refuse to do anything about it. But avoiding stress doesn’t make it go away, as any great procrastinator knows. Eventually, you have to confront it. Eventually the moving date will come, and whether you’re fully prepared for it or not, you’ll have to leave.
The next step is to accept that the stressor exists. Maybe you’re not planning movers or packing boxes yet, but at least you have the date in mind and you know it’s going to happen. Already you’re beginning to make better out of a situation you didn’t choose. However, you’re still not liberating yourself from the uncontrollable stressor.
What if you viewed moving to a new place as an opportunity? It’s a chance for a fresh start, a chance to meet new people and have new adventures. Now, you view what was once an uncontrollable stress to the detriment of everything in your life as possible a positive change.
Not only is the move an opportunity for you, but you view it as something that was meant to happen, the path you’re supposed to be on. You’re actually meant to go to a new place and find new opportunities for your life. Now, you’ve taken what was once a stress and viewed it as exactly what you were meant to do.
Notice with each of these steps, the situation did not change. And your tangible steps to act on the stressor didn’t change. The only variable that changed is how viewed the situation. How we respond to stress is really our choice. Imagine the power you would have if you could view uncontrollable stressors in life as your destiny. It all starts with your mindset around managing stress.