When we are under a great deal of stress, we may feel that it is because we are carrying other people’s burdens. It is easy to want to complain, or nag the people who don’t seem to be doing their share. If these are people we love, people who are supposed to love us, we can feel especially neglected and taken advantage of. And we begin to resent everything we do.
Nagging doesn’t work. Nor do tantrums, or sulking, waiting for people to see how unhappy they have made us. Because, in truth, they haven’t made us unhappy at all. We have. We are the ones who picked up their burdens. Then we carry the stress of our resentment as well. Because we chose how we react.
Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle wrote that when we are in an unhappy situation, we only have three choices. We can change it, we can accept it, or we can leave. Where we make a mistake dealing with stress, is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t.
We can change some things about situations. Offer a new idea at work, repair something that needs fixing at home. But what we can’t change are other people, and we just double our stress when we think we can.
The only people we can change are ourselves, and how we react to the world around us. When you take charge of your reactions, you begin to be aware of when you choose to be bitter or resentful, and what happens when you choose to let go.
You can also take charge of the entire situation. That may sound like you are taking on even more responsibilities, but when you are in charge it makes you feel differently about the things you do. When you choose to be responsible for something, it gives you power and authority, as opposed to feeling dumped on. And you also have the power to say what responsibilities you won’t accept.
Take something really mundane, like laundry. You can nag your children, and get irritated as you pick their clothes up off the floor. Or you can be responsible for dirty clothes in a hamper, and nothing more. If your kids want clean clothes, they have to do their part. If you let go of your role as sole clean clothes provider, you can take responsibility for teaching them to do it themselves. You stop dealing with the stress, and you raise more capable children.