In the U.S. July 4th is our national holiday, Independence Day. As well as its historical significance, it has the distinction of being the least stressful holiday we have all year. There is no stress of big meals to fix, no frantic shopping, no worrisome winter travel, and we celebrate it by lounging around outside, maybe barbecuing, and watching fireworks. Once a year we just relax.
For some reason this year, I started thinking about the impact of personal independence on how we respond to stress. Independence requires a certain amount of self reliance, courage, and strength, both of body and will. Independence grows out of a sense of confidence, resilience and personal power. The more confident and empowered we become, the more our independence grows, and the less power we give to stress.
Five places to reclaim your independence…now.
1. Be independent from other people’s opinions. A driving need to please others can be a major source of stress for many people. There will always be people you don’t agree with, or critical people who want to judge how you look, act, cook, raise your children, or whatever else they have an opinion about.
It is nice to take action that you know will make people happy, but you simply can’t do it all the time. Other people really are responsible for their own happiness. You can help occasionally, and that adds to happiness in the world. But happiness is not even a goal for some people. They get too much pleasure from criticizing those around them. So, declare your independence from the negative opinions of others, and leave that stress behind.
2. Be independent from your To Do List. Yes, it is good to be organized, and having a “to do” list saves you the stress of forgetting important tasks. But your list is not your life. When you check things off, take a breather. Not having another urgent entry does not mean you aren’t needed. It means you can look at the world without an agenda for a change. You can see what‘s out there, be spontaneous. You can take some time to simply BE.
3. Be independent from worry. As much as worrying feels like we’re doing something, all we are doing is causing ourselves more stress. Notice when worry starts creeping in, and ask yourself if there is some action you can take to solve the situation. If there is, go for it. You will feel far better if you face up to something that your inaction has caused you to worry about.
If there is nothing you can do today, declare your independence from fretting about it. If you need to check on it later, put in on some future day of your agenda, then tackle it as a task to accomplish, when the proper time comes.
4. Be independent from unhealthy food. Many of us have our little junk food addictions. So it might be time to remind yourself that you are in control of what you eat, not the other way around. Substances like refined sugar or over processed flour can cause cravings that would run your life if you let them. Declare your independence from the stress on your body of blood sugar run amok, or the lethargy that follows a sugar high. You have the power to feel better, if you take back your right to eat real food.
5. Be independent from some screen time. Television, computers, phones, whatever. The screens always seem to be calling for our attention, waiting for us to give them all our time. You don’t have to go cold turkey and give up technology for good. Just look up once and a while. Good outside. Take a walk. Take a friend to lunch.
In spite of what you think it they are telling you, your screens will not really miss you when you are gone. Declare your independence now and then, and let go of the stress of too much sitting, eye strain, advertising, and interrupted sleep. Your body will thank you in the long run.
These are just a few ideas of things we let have too much outside control in our lives. What are yours? Make your own list of whatever you’d like to let go of, at least once in a while, declare your independence and take a holiday from stress.
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