Today is “tax day”. For millions of American tax payers it is probably their least favorite time of the year, propelling them into a state of duress and anxiety. For a business owner such as myself the task of gathering all of my receipts and itemizing my expenses is time consuming and definitely not on my list of top ten favorite any things. A highly qualified CPA makes the process of filing much easier for me… that is, until we hit a snag between banking protocol and IRS regulations concerning IRA rollovers which seem to contradict one another. Feeling helpless against a powerful government agency that has the authority to make life a living hell is, to say the least, a bit unnerving. However, the worst case scenario is not going to land me in jail or deplete my retirement savings.
A recent poll shared by WPLJ Radio posed this question to women across America: “What is your biggest problem?” A whopping 35% responded: “men”. Since dealing with problems are stressful, is it safe to deduce that stress is caused by men? (Only kidding, guys! I’m actually on your side. Don’t listen to these women – you are not, I repeat not, the problem nor are you responsible for their stress.) Stress is actually less complicated than one may believe. Like anger, it is only a symptom of a deeper issue. And like anger, there can be thousands of triggers but only two root causes. Stress, a state of being characterized by feelings of physical, emotional, or mental tension, is actually rooted in fear and frustration. Let’s take a look at each one:
Fear: feelings of worry, anxiety, concern, and apprehension all contribute to feeling stressed out. We worry about finding a good job, moving to another city, losing our spouse or being alone. Each time we anticipate a negative circumstance we generate feelings of uncertainty. And fear of the unknown is one of life’s greatest causes of distress. Do you struggle with What If Syndrome? What if I get lost? What if my husband gets cancer? What if the plane crashes and I die? What if my child doesn’t get into the college of his choice? Or what if he does and I can’t afford the tuition? We project the worst possible outcome and proceed to worry over things that may never manifest.
Fear is a lack of trust in a situation, another person, ourselves or God: in a situation – we feel unsafe, such as sky diving for the first time. This is a dangerous hobby. I could be seriously injured; with other people – a person is perceived as a threat to my security and well-being. A jealous co worker has the potential to get me fired; in ourselves – we lack confidence in our abilities to handle whatever situations life presents to us. I could never survive the loss of a child; and most importantly a lack of trust in God – if He really is a loving God, why do bad things keep happening to me? I pray for healing every day and still I suffer with chronic back pain.
The way to overcome fear is two-fold. On a practical level: by building our self-confidence, in part, by reminding ourselves of everything we have faced, survived, and overcome thus far in life. On a spiritual level: through our faith in God, knowing that He never promised us that life would be easy or fair, only that He would never abandon us, that whatever we truly needed (not wanted) would be provided for us, and that if we followed His directive we would reap abundant blessings. Just look around you. It’s all ready there.
Frustration: feelings of anxiety derived from the need to control a situation or individual. When people don’t behave in a manner I deem appropriate, when they won’t comply with my wishes or demands, or when a situation does not proceed as I anticipated, I feel helpless and powerless. Being out of control causes anxiety within me as I realize something or someone else is determining the outcome of this situation and/or possibly my life. I do not trust anyone enough to give them power and authority over me. I do not have confidence that they have my best interest at heart.
When I realize that control is an illusion (I have zero control over situations and/or others) and recognize that whatever enters my life is ultimately there for my higher good*, then I do not need to have the final say in how life reveals itself to me. I can relax and be more at ease, knowing that I have full dominion over how I maximize every experience I participate in. I choose how I think, feel, react to, and utilize each and every occurrence. I can transform any perceived negative into a positive simply by my internal choices and how I express them.
People and events that contradict my ideals will always be a part of my life. By addressing the underlying causes of stress and living a faith-based life coupled with the wisdom to fully embrace every situation I experience, I can approach each day with greater peace and composure thereby significantly reducing the amount of stress that enters my life. And a peace-filled lifestyle supports a joy-filled existence.
* “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
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