A Stressed Out User's Guide to Letting Go

We have ideals for how other people should be, how we should be, how everything around us should be. These ideals aren’t a problem—the problem is that we are attached to these ideals. And this attachment causes us stress. The good news is that we can let go of our attachment, and the world doesn’t need to change one iota. We can let go, and in doing so we let go of our stress.

 

By Leo Babauta

We all deal with stress on a daily basis.

Whether it’s the stress of being busy and overwhelmed at work, having to deal with personal crises, traffic, relationships, health, finances…stress can be a big part of our lives. And stress has some strong effects: it makes us less happy, less effective and less open-hearted in our relationships. It tires us out, makes us less healthy and can even create mental health issues if it rises to levels of anxiety.

So let’s look at how to let go of stress, whenever we notice it.

What You’re Struggling With

Why do we get stressed out, feel anxiety or feel overwhelmed? Because we want the world to be calm, orderly, comfortable, and the world isn’t going along with those wishes. Things are out of control—not orderly, not simple, full of interruptions and unplanned events, health problems and accidents, and things never go as we planned or imagined.

But this is the way the world is—the stress comes not because the world is messy and chaotic, but because we desire it to be different than it is.

We have ideals for how other people should be, how we should be, how everything around us should be. These ideals aren’t a problem—the problem is that we are attached to these ideals. And this attachment causes us stress.

The good news is that we can let go of our attachment, and the world doesn’t need to change one iota. We can let go, and in doing so we let go of our stress.

How to Let Go of the Stress

Let’s say you’re experiencing a moment of stress right now.

Something isn’t going the way you’d like, things are chaotic or overwhelming, someone isn’t acting the way you’d like, you’re worried about something coming up.

The first practice is to drop into your body and notice how the stress feels, physically. Be present with the feeling; it’s not a problem to have stress in our bodies, it’s just a physical feeling. We can observe the physical sensation, and just be with it. This can be your whole practice, and it only has to take a few moments.

The second practice is to notice the ideal, or your narrative about the situation. What’s causing this stress in your body? You have some ideal about how the world should be, how the other person should be, how you should be. And the world, the person, or you are not meeting that ideal. Notice that right now. Notice what you’re saying to yourself about it: “They shouldn’t act like that, I don’t like this, I’m such a screw-up and not worthy of love.”

What do you say to yourself? Is this a familiar narrative? Notice that the ideal and the narrative are causing the effect of the stress, anxiety, fear, feeling of overwhelm. They aren’t serving you very well.

Also notice that they are completely fabricated by your mind. You created this ideal and the narrative. They are harming you, and you made up this dream. That’s nothing to beat yourself up about, but just to recognize. The good news: If you created it, you can let it go as well.

The third practice is to let go and just be. What would it be like to be in this moment without the ideal and the narrative? You’d be at peace. You’d be present in this moment. You’d be free. Perhaps more loving (to yourself or others).

Ask yourself what it would be like to not have the ideal and narrative. See if you can feel what it would be like, just for a moment. In that moment, you are free. You can relax, open your mind beyond your self-concern, and just be.

This is a state of openness that you can drop into in any moment. Just notice the sensations of this moment, the sensations of your body and of your surroundings. Notice the other people in your life and their beautiful hearts. Notice how amazing it is to be alive right now, what a gift it is to have sight, hearing, taste, a body. What a privilege, what a joy!

You don’t have to be grateful and joyous in every moment, but this freedom of dropping ideal and narrative, and being at peace is always available.

Even in moments of chaos, we can be free, and even appreciate the beauty of the chaos.

 

The stress comes not because the world is messy and chaotic, but because we desire it to be different than it is. ~ Leo Babauta Click To Tweet

 

 

Leo Babauta is a regular guy, a father of six kids, a husband, a writer from Guam (now living in San Francisco). He eats vegan food, writes, runs, and reads. He is the founder of Zen Habits which is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.

 

 

Photo: Pixabay

Editor: Dana Gornall

 

Did you like this post? You might also like:

 

The I in Faith.

  By Tammy T. Stone   Faith can be a divisive issue, in a world already pretty divided. If we take faith to mean a belief in some form of higher power---probably the most common use of the term---we have on the one hand people who are willing to die for...

Routines and Rituals: A Rite and Your Right

  By JG Lewis Again, today, I fell into my morning routine. We all do. Routines: we have them, no matter how strict or subliminal they end up. Mornings we bathe, dress, eat breakfast (alone or before anyone else is awake), check the news feed or your bank account...

The Drive to Be Your Best Self

  By Neil Schmitzer-Torbert   Many of us come to our meditation practice with the hope that we can improve ourselves, that we can become our best self. This is a natural, normal place to begin. But, in Zen Buddhism, we often encounter teachings that ask us to examine...

Evolving Takes Thought & Action.

  By Lisa Meade   As with many spiritual practitioners, the shaman understands that one has to put more than just intention into one's evolution. It seems for most people the desire to expand to grow, and to move forward is a natural one. Transformation is...

Comments

comments