Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

The Source of Stress

We all deal with stress, but where does it come from? Many times life throws curve balls that we weren’t expecting. Why do we experience any sort of stress or anxiety when something unexpected happens? Is it really as simple as when something happens that we don’t like that we get stressed? Or is it just a symptom of fear of the future? Is there any way to eliminate stress from our lives?

The beginning to eliminating stress is to realize that the triggers to our stress were formed early in life. Perhaps your parents were struggling to make ends meet and were constantly sending negative messages about money to you. Messages of lack, bad luck, life is unfair, blame and anxiety about money will create similar patterns in young, impressionable children. Perhaps your parents struggled with their relationship and sent you messages of guilt, shame, jealousy, rejection, abandonment or insecurity, again creating triggers in the young minds that were watching. Often times buried memories and feelings will bubble up liter in life as stress. If your parents often expressed feelings of victimhood, you will have learned how to react to life in similar ways. So our parents are oftentimes the source of our anxiety because that is how they taught us to experience life and that anxiety is a necessary part of life.

If we were programmed for perfection, we were set up for stress. I am not talking about the perfection of acceptance; I am talking about the concept that everything has to happen as we plan it. As life is what happens when we had something else planned, a program of perfection will create stress. The more expectations that we have, the more anxiety and stress we will have. If we were always trying to be perfect little boys and girls to please our parents, trying to find the approval of others, trying to get the attention of parents or authority figures, stress was our constant invisible companion.

If our parents were highly judgmental, and constantly criticized you or others, we also learned to be judgmental in our life view. By constantly perceiving that the world is wrong, and you are right, the tension between the wrong and right will produce stress. The observation of negative talk by young children often instills negative self-talk in the child. When all we do is constantly criticize ourselves, we create the feeling of anxiety through self-hatred.

So what to do? The first thing we have to do is take responsibility for our behavior and actions. If we caused something that wasn’t intended, accept that and make whatever changes are necessary to not repeat that behavior. Stop living for approval or attention. We have nothing to prove to anyone else, and we can’t take on their problems or expectations. It would be easy to say let go of all expectations, but doing that is very difficult. We all achieve more when we have goals and plan for those goals, so expectations can be positive. However, we can choose to move through life with calmness and serenity.

The second thing we have to do is examine our beliefs and thinking. Are we programmed for stress or are we programmed for calmness and peace? If we are constantly practicing what I call “worst case scenario” thinking, that is what we will experience. If we change that thinking to “best case scenario” thinking, we will create a much less stressful experience. Stop negative self-talk. Find what makes you feel relaxed and calm and stick to that. Our body believes what we say to it, so be aware of how we talk to ourselves. Change fear to excitement. If we are afraid of a situation, simply say to yourself: “I am excited about this”.

Finally, if you feel anxious or stressed, detach and take a mental step away from the situation. Don’t carry burdens around with you like a backpack full of rocks. Let go of expectations of any sort. If you don’t expect anything, then whatever happens is just what was supposed to happen. It isn’t failure, it isn’t bad luck, and it isn’t the universe out to get you. It is what happened. At the end of the day, let go of all stress. Don’t watch the news. Meditate. Take control of how you end your day. Although we can’t control what happens, we can control how we react to it. RELAX. Breathe deeply. Do the best you can. Let go of everything else. The truth is we are the source of stress.

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