This morning I was struck again by an idea I’d picked up in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s wonderfully named book, Full Catastrophe Living. That there is nothing stressful in the world, only our reaction to things.
I’d understood this idea intellectually, but as usual there was a big gap until I actually really felt it (while walking up the street to our house this morning!)
Whatever happens, happens. Events in themselves, at least in terms of the day to day stresses that we all suffer, aren’t stressful, the stress is something that exists only within us. It seems to me that once this is clear, then there is a lot we can do about it. There are quite a few ways of taking responsibility for our own stress reactions, and changing them. Ending them even.
My stresses are usually caused by unmet expectations (things not happening the way I expect them to or want them to), by running around too much, by the moods of others, by my own fears. And by my reaction to these things. And there are a million ways to become aware of and then change our reactions to things.
I can learn to slow down. To lower my expectations. To surrender to things. To be more present instead of worrying about the future. To manage my fears by understanding them. To practice mindfulness so that I catch stress when I see it coming. To make space in my life and relationships when I need it.
If the car breaks down the week before I need to take it on holiday and have a million other things to do, I can just accept it and get it fixed (instead of going to war with the whole situation!)
If I’m arguing with my wife, I can just get out of her way, give us both some space, and come back to the discussion later.
When the deadline for getting out of the door in the morning is looming, I can just surrender to time, we’ll get there anyway!
When I’m scared of going to the dentist, I can just come back to the present moment and deal with the dentist when I get there.
When my blood pressure starts to rise because I’ve been on the computer too long, I can take stock of the fact and get away from the screen for a sufficient break (or better still, be mindful enough to take the break before my blood pressure starts to rise!)