I start each day with the wish that I can stay cool, calm and collected. An old fashioned way of saying I’m going to stay away from stress of any kind.
It’s a wonderful intention. But as they say – the road to hell is paved with good intentions! However I am becoming much better at minimising my stress level when I notice that I’m getting a bit twitchy. When I think back to my twenties and thirties I notice how much time I spent stressed out and exhausted. I’m not sure now what I thought all that stress was achieving. Certainly not what I thought it was anyway. There was the shift into being married not single. Trying to get ahead in my career. Discussions about babies and family life. A messy divorce. Singlehood. Another messy relationship. Still trying to forge ahead with a career despite moving from one end of the country to another.
Now I look back I seem to have been trying to pack an awful lot of living into a short space of time. I feel that’s one of the benefits of getting more years under my belt. I can shake my head and laugh at all the stuff that created stress for me. Because none of it matters now. I’d love to be able to share that perspective with some of my younger mentees. But I’m not sure if they would get it. We jump into life wanting all sorts of dreams and stress ourselves up to the eyeballs to get them. Only to find, quite often, that the dream we were chasing isn’t the one that is right for us. It took me many years of self development to get to the point of recognising and rejecting my stressy head.
Of course reacting to stress is a survival technique. It’s just that the ego mind now sees risk in all sorts of things. And learning to tell the difference between survival and a dream dying can be hard.
One of the best things I learned when discovering how to be less stressed was that I was doing it to myself. If I made something matter to me then it got stressy. I remember working really hard doing a lot of overtime to buy a particular car. When I got in to drive it for the first time I hated the way it drove. I moved from stressing about affording it to stressing about wanting to get rid of it. It took me a long time to work out that I could have had a test drive in all sorts of cheaper cars in case there was a more affordable one that was lovely to drive. I think we all do that far too often. Forget to think things through because we are focused on one outcome.
When I started to think things through I found that I could let issues drop. I could step back from the pressure of making decisions that felt like they had to be concrete or perfect and let myself have more options. Flexibility too. Stress decreases when I know that it’s ok to change my mind. Or that I can try something and then swap to another choice if I want. The relief from believing something is the only option is wonderful. It also helped me to notice when the stress wasn’t really mine. Because I had to deal with people who were also stressed. Pressured in one way or another. Their minds running wild with fear and anxiety.
Stress is a bit like a virus. You can be immune. Or you can catch every variety going.
Part of freeing myself from stressful days was to develop an ability to step back. Not to react in the same way when someone was stressy headed with me. Letting their energy flow around and past me. I began aiming for that cool, calm, collected approach in my dealings with others. Letting them say and do what they needed to express their stress but not joining in. Reminding myself that I was only responsible for myself and my actions. I also found that if I spoke what was truthful for me I carried less stres around.
It was hard to find my authentic voice because of all the conditioning about how we should, ought or must speak to one another. Yet when I took off my masks and spoke from the realest me I became more at peace with myself. Even if I wasn’t heard or understood. I recognised that suffering in silence, so to speak, was stressful. Then I began to notice that when I was calm so were others. Calmness spreads like a virus too. I promised myself that I would bring as much of that energy into my day as I could. Meditation really helped me to hone my calmness. Being able to release myself from my thoughts. Letting my feelings go. Living in the moment.
Nowadays I am much more likely to step back from stress. To decline to get wound up. Happy to let anything that is problematic resolve itself. I haven’t lost that stressy head completely. But I’m nearly there!
Day 582 of my blogging challenge