According to the most recent APA "Stress in America" survey, nearly half of today’s adults reported being more stressed out. And just as many say they’re simply unable to control the important aspects of their lives. It’s this inability to control outcomes that causes stress. So what’s the answer? Is this really a lose-lose situation? Are we doomed to a cycle of stress, loss of control and more stress?
In my book, The Ecstasy of Surrender I discuss how the answer to stress is letting go, relinquishing control, and being more flexible in dealing with work, finances and relationships. I’ve consistently seen with patients and in myself that resisting or stiffening during challenging times only increases stress and saps power, what I call bunker mentality. Everything becomes about defense, worry, and fear, not love. Similarly, people get more severely injured in accidents when they tense up. If you fight pain or adversity, the spasm of discomfort tightens. But when you relax suffering lessens.
Here are some common forms of stress addictions and solutions on how to let them go:
Work Stress—Don’t Compare, Compliment
If you’re stressed out at work, stop comparing yourself to others, and focus on what you're grateful for. Instead of envying someone's success, consider what you can learn from them and wish them well. Letting go this way can be very liberating, freeing you to change at least some of your work related behaviors.
Relationship Stress—Show Compassion, Relinquish Control
Yelling at your spouse, partner, or children won’t relieve your stress. The key is to stay calm, no matter what buttons your loved one has pushed. Don’t react or get defensive, and allow the other person to finish talking. Let what they say sink in before you respond. Substitute compassion for control. Accept where they're coming from.
Physical Stress—Move Don’t Mope
Here is a surprisingly simple solution: To let go of physical stress, let your body do what it was designed to do - move. At least several times a week, visit the gym, walk your dog, swim, or do yoga stretches. Movement relaxes muscles, reduces tension, and helps you sleep better. If you are physically stressed out surrender to the bliss of your body's sacred energy and love your body through movement.
Time-Related Stress—Let Nature Calm You
The American culture rushes people through life, work, and relationships. We don’t allow ourselves enough time to let things happen at their own pace, and surrender to the flow. Take time stressors to go outside and focus on a cloud, watch it drift, and notice its changing shape. Let the air rush through and around you and clear out your mind. Drink a glass of water and take a relaxing shower to cleanse the negativity and work deadlines from your system. These calming exercises can help your rushing mind slow down and gain perspective.
Illness-Related Stress—Trust Your Body’s Healing Powers
An illness can often lead to depression. To keep negative thoughts from overwhelming you, change your negative beliefs (I will never heal) to positive ones (I trust my body's healing powers). Instead of getting stressed out, listen to your body—and if a treatment or a doctor's approach doesn’t feel right to you, question it. Get enough sleep and avoid people and settings that deplete or de-energize you.
One of the keys to surrender is making your mind feel safe enough to soften its resistance to new ideas. To do this first reassure it that you are not giving up control or ignoring survival instincts. Then give your mind a good reason to make a change. Remind it that by letting go you will reduce your stress, have more energy, live longer and improve your relationships. This allows you to give your intellect a say in the decision to update your perspective and let go of knee-jerk reactions.
Adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life Harmony Books, 2014 by Judith Orloff MD
Judith Orloff MD is bestselling author of the new book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life upon which these tips and article are based. Her insights in Emotional Freedom create a new convergence of healing paths for our stressed out world. An assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, Dr. Orloff's work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, and in Oprah Magazine and USA Today.