I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who never experiences stress. Most of us become frustrated when things don’t go the way we planned or when others don’t comply with how we want them to be or behave. A sense of losing control triggers feelings of uncertainty within us. Mild anxiety, or sometimes full blown fear, propels us to seek to regain power over the situation or individual. Yet authentic power is never about exerting authority over others but rather demonstrates our ability to remain unaffected adversely by our external environment. The true causes of stress lie not in what is occurring around us but rather by what is taking place within us. All emotions, of which stress is one, originate internally. Consider the two internal origins of stress:
Perception: how we choose to see things, events or people defines our reality. Our perception is not determined by the actuality of our experience but rather by the thoughts we form about them. Reality: I’ve told my children a thousand times to keep their rooms clean yet every time I check on them they are a disaster. Perception: They do this just to drive me crazy!
Truth: most children are not concerned with the order of their rooms. Messy is their normal. A simple shift in our perception can instantly alleviate stress. They’re just being kids. They’ll learn eventually, I hope. And if not, it’s really not that important.
Expectations: Is it realistic to expect that my husband have the same interest in music as I do? Is it fair to think that adults of a certain age should know how to treat one another respectfully? Is it reasonable to think I can work a full-time job, raise my children, and care for my elderly parents on my own, and do it all really well?
We demand a lot of ourselves and live in an age where multitasking and workaholism (that’s not a real word but you know what I mean) are considered virtues. When we fall short of those ideals we label ourselves as failures. Likewise, we place an excessive amount of pressure on others to conform to what we believe is right and/or acceptable. We impose our beliefs, lifestyles, interests, work ethics, etc. on our families, friends, coworkers, and others and when they do not comply we become frustrated and angry.
While it is useful to have expectations in life, we must be careful to make certain that they are in alignment with reality and are fair and just to all concerned. If they are extraordinarily high or unreasonable, we are inviting stress into our minds and bodies.
Solutions: Stress is not directly linked to the pressures others impose on us but rather the burdens we place on ourselves. Carefully re examine your perceptions of yourself, others, God, the situations you are experiencing, and the world in general. Ask yourself: am I fair in the way I view and label the above? Is my judgment of each negatively influenced by false beliefs, past experiences or invalid information? If necessary, make the proper adjustments.
Consider the following in regard to expectations: is it realistic to expect that others comply with your demands or conform to your way of living? Do you have a right to dictate to others what to think, feel, believe, or how they should act? Is it reasonable to expect that what you are seeking in an given situation would manifest in the time frame you’ve allotted, in the exact manner in which you desire considering all those involved and considering all other relevant factors?
If you want less stress in your life, it is not always necessary to change your circumstances (although that may certainly be a viable option). Sometimes, a simple shift in perception (how we view things) or an adjustment in our expectations (being more realistic and fair-minded) can make all the difference in the world. Remember, if you can’t change the world, change how you view it and how you interact with it. You will be much more relaxed and peaceful, able to more fully enjoy life in all its wonder and glory. And isn’t that a worthy goal?
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