The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James
In our busy lives we often forget that the real source of our stress is not the things on our to do list. It is how we think about and relate to the things we have to do, as well as our hopes and desires. Rarely is the activity that we are currently engaged in the actual source of the stress that we feel. Our stress is more directly related to our attachment to having things turn out in a particular way and a fear or concern that they may not.
Unfortunately, our attachment is usually tied to an exaggerated view as to the actual importance of any particular outcome.
We can all relate to the stress we’ve encountered being late to an appointment, worrying about our health, medical appointments, not having the proper support system, are we parenting good enough, hurrying to catch a flight, preparing for a job interview, being stuck in traffic, worrying about some test results, or wanting to make a good impression when meeting new people. In the moment, the stress around these types of activities, depending upon our attachment to any particular outcome, can become quite intense.
However, if we look at the events themselves, as well as the numerous stressful events we encounter daily, we will find that the outcomes are never nearly as dramatic as they seemed at the time. We’ve all been late for appointments, missed or had flights delayed, gotten not such positive news, messed up in some way or another, either done well or poorly on job interviews, lost jobs, gain new jobs, and made good or poor first impressions with people we’ve met. Instead of those events leaving some lasting imprint that is irreversible, they simply became part of our past and we continued with our lives, ready for more stress and things to worry about.
Today’s quote provides us with the most valuable resource we can develop, the ability to choose one thought over another. With mindfulness, we can develop the ability to catch ourselves when we get caught up in exaggerated states of mind and rumination about things that we ultimately don’t have any control over. Instead of allowing our mind to worry about being late, we can remember and accept that all of us have been late at times in our lives and what is truly important is being present when we got there.
We can develop the ability to let go of unhealthy rumination and patterns of thought that lead to needless stress and worry about things we don’t have any control over, and bring our attention back to the present moment and things that we can do. For every one thing not going our way, there is always hundreds more that are. Instead of letting our attention be consistently drawn to one or two things that we fear, we can bring our attention to the vast resources and support we have available to us to deal with any challenges or events that may come our way.
I invite you to be aware of stress as it arises. When you notice stress, instead of reacting, take a few breaths, let go of exaggerations and gain some perspective, remember these are just moments that will come and go and what is important is how you show up. Then redirect your thoughts to the resources you have available and do the best you can under the circumstances.
Choosing One Thought Over Another:
I guess, the answer for this is the greatest weapon against stress is the ability to choose one thought over another. Let us for instance assume that we have that super power. When we are low, instead of thinking of the bad things around us – replace it with curiosity. What are the questions you will ask?
I am guessing, instead of asking “Why me?”, you might ask – what else can this mean? What is the message it is sending me? What is the purpose and use of this?
Instead of telling – This is pulling me down and it always happens to me. Why not question – Is there a pattern here. If so, what can I do to break this pattern?
Instead of saying – The Universe is out there to screw me over. What if we ask, what can I do to screw it back?
I think there are a lot of interesting questions we can ask and various creative ways we can choose our thoughts over the other. Stress comes because of various reasons and we dealt with them all in our ways of dealing with tension.
There are tonnes of stuff that keep happening around us. This is real life and these are real experiences which we feel every single day in our lives. And the more we look toward improving the quality of those, the better control we have over the quality of our life long term as well. As we recall,
Life is not just one big achievement we sign off the list, it is a whole set of beautiful things which we feel and face every single day!
Peace. ❤️, ➕n gratitude 😀