Stress and anxiety are felt by us all. We can live a stress-free life and this article explains how.
“I am capable of thinking ... yet I am not my thoughts; I am the thinker of my thoughts; therefore I can change what I feel and still be me”. -Terence Gorski
Each of us are responsible for our thoughts. Just as we create our thoughts, so also do we create our emotions and behaviors. Stress and anxiety are effected by our thoughts and behaviors. Our everyday stress can be eliminated once we believe that we can control our thoughts, therefore controlling our stress response.
When asking the question, "Who am I?", we discover that a part of the answer lies within our thoughts, emotions, and actions. I often write and speak on this topic since the cause of anxiety and stress originates within ourselves, namely, within our thoughts.
We tend to feel stress and anxiety over situations in which we believe we possess a lack of control. The opposite being true; if I believe that I have control over a situation my stress and anxiety will be lessened. In my work experience I have witnessed clients remain in an unhealthy situation, even when there are healthy alternatives, because their fear of the unknown stops them from making a change. The unknown can be a source of fear for in the unknown we have no control. A lack of control leads to increased anxiety, therefore, someone may remain in an unhealthy situation since they at least "know" that situation and so assume they have control over it.
We need to keep our thoughts focused on the present moment, for it is only in the present that we have the control to make changes. Focusing our thoughts on the past may cause anxiety and a stress response as we can’t control or change our past; we can only learn lessons from our past. Focusing our thoughts on the future may cause stress and anxiety as we can’t control what has not as yet happened. To maintain a stress free life we need to keep our thoughts focused on the present moment.
This is one of the reasons an examination of our thoughts, and the importance in believing that I have control over my thoughts, is vital to healthy living in a stress-free and lowered anxiety state.
As I see it, there is a difference between stress and anxiety. Stress can be eliminated from our life, while anxiety, to varying degrees, will always be with us. I teach that stress, being subjective to the perception of a person, is a person's emotional (and at times physical) response to life situations. Hans Selye, a scientist, in 1936 defined stress as "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Notice the word "change" in the definition. Change, an unknown factor and therefore something out of my control, causes a stress response. Stress, as I see it, is our subjective response to a perceived lack of control. Since it is our response, and we are in control of our responses (behaviors and actions), we can eliminate our stress by changing our response (belief and action) to the situation.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is a pervasive sense of worry or unease, typically about the future. Whereas stress is our response to current situations in life, anxiety is an unease within ourselves regarding future events and outcomes. Stress tends to come and go given our situations at the moment; anxiety persists, to varying degrees, within us. Since anxiety is a response to unknown future events, anxiety (assuming one is not diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder) leads us to take action. This action, in the form of preparing for the future, empowers us to tackle the unknown by taking control of things we actually have control over.
Anxiety is a component of our survival mechanism known as "fight or flight". Anxiety is therefore a response in ourselves activated to help us survive by taking action! We will either physically or emotionally flee from, or stay to fight, whatever we perceive as a threat to our survival. This differs from stress which is our subjective response to a situation. Granted, mild stress may cause us to take action, but stress, as an emotion, is fickle as it comes and goes. Anxiety, mild most of the time, stays with us, vigilant in its mission of keeping us safe.
This is why, when I teach my clients about stress and anxiety, I teach them how to rid themselves of their stress, while reducing their anxiety. The goal for inner peace is not to eliminate our anxiety, the goal is in the actions we take to cope with our anxiety and everyday stress.
As I mentioned earlier, we can eliminate our stress by changing our response (belief and action) to the situation. How do we change our response? By changing our perception. The way we view the world is our perception, and our perception becomes our reality. This quote is quite powerful in its ability to succinctly explain the whole of what I’m trying to explain:
“We do not see the world as it is; we see the world as we are.” -Talmud
In other words, my perception of the world is directly related to my perception of self. Therefore, if I change my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as my view of myself, I will change how I see the world! This is why it’s important to reflect on our thoughts, believe that we can control those thoughts, and focus on eliminating stress.
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