When we’re overburdened and dealing with stress everywhere we turn, we might cope by looking at some moment in the future, and believing if we can just make it there, then all our stress will disappear. But as one kind of stress fades away, another always seems to be there to replace it. The causes of stress change, but the stress itself never leaves.
Life will always have some kind of stress. More peaceful days do come, but they don’t last forever. If we are not careful, we can waste good times waiting for the next crisis. A healthier approach is to learn from whatever is causing us stress, and to become stronger and more resilient. Instead of hoping the future will be a stress free life, we need to picture ourselves overcoming the stress, and being able to cope tomorrow better than we do today.
Stories abound of scrappy kids who grew up in hardship, but built lives of success and promise. And yet overly sheltered children often reach adulthood with few resources to deal with even the tiniest stressors of grown-up life. If you feel unprepared for the slings and arrows or your life’s circumstances, then it may help you to think of yourself in training.
Build muscle and character. Some exercise physiologists have said that people who visualize themselves getting stronger as they work out, have better results than people whose attention is elsewhere.
Building physical strength gives you stamina, and can help you get through long, stressful days. At the same time, you can focus on building your inner strength, adding positive self talk to your exercise time, and knowing that both physically and mentally you can meet bigger challenges without being overcome.
Relax and stretch your body and soul. Meditative types of exercise like Tai Chi and Yoga allow you unwind your kinks and your frustrations. Visualize yourself untroubled by events that might have caused you stress in the past. See yourself unaffected by non-essentials, and let your breathing simply flow.
Be choosy about what you watch on TV. Violent crime dramas, and political pundits yelling at each other over the news of the day, are not something you need if you are dealing with stress. Choose music, something uplifting, or a worthwhile movie. Or escape into a really good book.
It is fine to be informed, but a lot of horrific news is simply repeated over and over on the air. Learn what’s going on, if you must, then set it the news aside.
Focus on the journey, not the finish line. Life should not be a race to get to the end. It is a slow, unfolding process, full of both ups and downs. Our medieval ancestors called this fortune’s wheel, which lets us rise to greatness, but where we can also fall.
If we have built strength and resilience, then we can maintain serenity no matter what fortune brings us. And we will reach the end with the wisdom we have gained.