Everybody experiences stress. You can’t get rid of all of it: if you are alive ,you are going to experience some amount of stress. However, many of us enlist ourselves in an endless bucket brigade of it. A lot of this arises from our frame of reference, often our own self-created sense of urgency and vitalness to whatever it is we think we have to do or have right now, today, this very minute; in the next hour; by the afternoon; tomorrow; next week; next month; next year; for the rest of our lives. Having plans, goals, dreams and wants is worthwhile, but when conducting our daily lives under the duress of acquiring these things, which we think we need, becomes the bread and butter of our now, this is a way we allow more, unnecessary, tail-chasing stress into our lives. Stop and assess what it is you really want out of your life, what really makes you tick, what brings you the most happiness. When were you happiest as a child–or at any point in your life? What would it take or not take to experience more of what really gives your life meaning? I’ll bet it isn’t what you spend most of your life doing now, if you feel plagued by stress.
Part of changing the amount of stress we feel is changing our mindset. There is a difference between need and want, and I urge you to examine what falls into each category in your own life. Cultivating gratitude is also key: just being in the daily practice of being grateful for what you already have, remembering to include not just tangible objects, possessions or status. Make it a habit to take stock of what you are grateful for at the beginning and end of everyday and/or before meals. Try doing it when you feel particularly stressed. Maybe you need to write it out, maybe an app for it will work best, maybe you need to sing it or pray it–find what works for you. When people are really honest with themselves, most will find that there are relatively few possessions that have brought lasting joy, fulfillment and meaning into their lives. What are these things, tangible and intangible, for you?
I’m a fan of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. His recent entry at http://zenhabits.net/assess/ is a useful strategy for assessing and delegating or eliminating things that are bringing us stress. He has many other enriching nuggets on dealing with stress in his other posts and also has a new book. Check him out.