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Reduce Stress at Its Source - A Positive Statement, Issue #005
May 04, 2010

Featured Affirmation:

I see stress for what it is: a reminder to shift my mindset.

Positive Statements to Live Stress-Free:

Stress is like an iceberg. We can see one-eighth of it above, but what about what’s below?
- Unknown

Stress is not what happens to us. It's our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose.
- Maureen Killoran

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
- Chinese Proverb

Reduce Stress at Its Source

There is a ton of research, articles, studies, opinions, exercises, etc… on reducing stress. Most of them focus on removing the symptoms of stress by using meditation, deep breathing, massage, time management, exercise and alternative healing. True, these therapies will decrease blood pressure, calm the nervous system and keep the body in a state of relaxation, but I have found very few stress reduction methods that address stress at its source. What causes increased blood pressure, tight muscles, tension headaches and sore necks? The beginning of stress symptoms is stress thoughts.

The mindset of stress is the source from which the physical experience of stress comes. In physics, stress is defined as tension on a system. In terms of thought, stress is the tension between reality (what is true at this exact moment in time) and what we believe “should” be true but isn’t (the expectations we have about ourselves and others.)

I have found that the majority of thought is a “should.” All day long our mind weaves stories about how things “should” have been, how they “should” be now or how they “should” unfold. We “should” on ourselves, we “should” on others and we even “should” on God. All of that “should” causes stress.

What would happen if we let the “should” go and only dealt with reality? Would stress still exist? If life was allowed to be what it was, and others were allowed to act as they do, our minds would have nothing to be tense about.

When I was in Jr. High School, a few girls started a rumor that I was stuck-up because I stood with my left leg slightly bent. The truth of why I stand that way has to do with a leg-length discrepancy resulting from scoliosis and a dislocated hip that I had at birth. In this situation, I had two options:

Option #1: I could believe that I “should” stand like everyone else. That would have caused tension between how I stand and how I “should” stand. I would have felt stressed and embarrassed that a rumor was started, and I could have tried to adjust the way I stood to accommodate others.

Option #2: I could believe the truth of how I stand and know that there was a reason for it. I could see that the behavior of the girls and the rumor said more about them than it said about me. I would continue to stand with my left leg bent and think it was odd that anyone would infer that my stance meant I was stuck-up.

Fortunately, I have never felt my health challenges “should” be any different than they are and Option #2 is what played out in Jr. High. There was no stress. I was okay with reality. I was okay with who I was and okay with who the rumor-spreaders were.

It is a three-step process to shift the “should”:

Step #1: Create awareness of what your “shoulds” are. Who do you “should”on in your life?

Step #2: Identify the stress. Contrast the “should” with reality at this exact moment.

Step #3: Take action. When the “should” is about someone else, it can be incredibly stressful to try to mentally change others. The only person we have responsibility, and power, to change is ourselves through our beliefs and behaviors. For each of your “shoulds” identified in step #1, determine what action you can take to shift the “should”.

Objectively seeing your thoughts as stories and not necessarily as truth allows you to step into the flow of life without trying to build dams at every bend in the river so that the flow goes the way you think that is “should.” Letting go of mental control and allowing reality to be what it is dissolves the mental stress that causes the physical stress symptoms.

This takes courage, trust and patience. It is also one of the most powerful things you can do.

Journal Exercise:

List all of the ”should” in your life. For each ”should”, what is true at this moment, what is reality? What action can you take based on reality to shift the “should?”

Book Recommendation:

Loving What Is
By Byron Katie

This is by far the most powerful personal development book I have ever read. I cannot say enough about how transformational Byron Katie is. She created "The Work," a series of four questions and a turnaround used to examine stressful thoughts.

Her main premise is similar to that of Eckhart Tolle's. When a person is present, there is no suffering. When we allow the story to just be a story instead of believing it is the truth, all of the struggle and pain gets exposed for what it is...untrue thought.

Loving What Is is especially fabulous in that it is a technique, as opposed to just a theory, and not just any technique, a very simple technique. I have seen it utterly transform stressful situations in my life and in the lives of those around me. Do "The Work" and give yourself the gift of freedom.

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Coaching is an astounding tool for promoting lasting and transformational change. Working together we will become very clear about what your goals are, create an action plan to get there and overcome any roadblock along the way.

The result will be uniquely you at your maximized potential.

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*Coaching sessions can be conducted by phone or in person.*

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