If you’re feeling stressed out, you’re not alone. Gallup research shows 73% of people regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress. Worse, 33% of people regularly experience extreme stress. The cause? According to the people surveyed, 76% cited money and work as the main cause.
There’s no doubt many of us are overworked in high demanding jobs, and money can often go out faster than it comes in. However, it’s not actually that demanding job or the lack of money that causes stress. Stress is caused by the way you react to these situations with your thoughts. In other words, it’s not the situation but your thoughts about the situation that causes stress.
You can prove this to yourself by noticing that different people react differently to the same “stressful” situations. Some seem to be completely unperturbed by anything. For instance, your neighbor could be in a dire financial situation and you’d never know it because they always seem to be in a good mood.
Those who don’t react to situations with stress aren’t superhuman. They’ve just developed the capacity to control their thoughts.
Stressful thoughts snowball
Have you ever noticed that stress gets worse the more you think about your situation?
For example, when you get a bill in the mail that you can’t pay, it’s just a harmless piece of paper. You almost always have the option of making payment arrangements. If you can’t pay it, the bill will go to collections but it’s not going to cause harm to you. Yet, you can’t help but think things like:
- How am I going to pay for my kid’s college education?
- If I have to file for bankruptcy my life will be over
- This is going to destroy my credit
- My spouse will leave me
- I’m a failure
Thinking these thoughts makes you feel bad and creates more thoughts that make you feel even worse. It’s an endless cycle that unfortunately, most of us are used to.
“Most of us take stress as a part of our daily life and [have] become used to stress so much as we do not even know that we are sick,” says Dr. Muhammad M. Hanif from iCliniq. “Chronic stress makes our inner self hollow by damaging the personality and soul.”
Stress doesn’t have to be a regular part of your life. While the general advice for dealing with existing stress is rooted in physical exercise and nutrition, if you want to prevent stress at the root, you need to change the way you think.
- First, stop resisting what is
Most stress is caused by the perception of being out of control. This causes you to resist what is, by thinking about what should or shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t have made this or that decision, you shouldn’t have agreed to those loan terms, you should have read the fine print, you shouldn’t have taken on such a heavy workload, etc. These are dead-end thoughts that snowball stress.
You can avoid stress in any situation by accepting that it is the way it is. If you have a gigantic outstanding loan, you have a gigantic outstanding loan. If you can’t pay your rent, you can’t pay your rent. If your boss wants to fire you, your boss wants to fire you.
When you stop resisting what is, you slow down those stressful thoughts. Accepting what is doesn’t mean you have to like it, agree with it, or embrace it. It just means you’re acknowledging how things actually are.
- Avoid attaching meaning to the situation
Uncontrolled thoughts will assign meaning to every situation you encounter. For instance, if you can’t afford to sign your kids up for sports because you have to pay overdue bills, you might make it mean you’re a bad parent. That thought is the source of stress – not the overdue electric bill.
- Focus on, and amplify positive emotions
It’s a scientific fact that positive emotions are a source of power that you can tap into in order to control stress. Practicing gratitude, connecting with loved ones, and tapping into your own inspiration will keep you in a healthy space that will reduce your response to potential triggers.
- Meditate daily
Developing a daily meditation practice is one of the best ways to slow down your thoughts and eliminate stress.
You don’t need special cushions or sand gardens to meditate. Fold a bed pillow in half and sit on it, slightly elevated above the floor. Cross your legs and close your eyes. If possible, wear a blindfold to eliminate sources of light. Breathe deeply and remain focused on your breath. It seems simple, but it really does take time to master.