Stress: Is it a Choice or a Circumstance?

Why do we stress? What is it that makes a person happy, or not? This is something I have been pondering over the last few weeks. Building off of observation from years of working with young people, middle aged people, people in careers, and adding in my own experience and studies, I’ve put together a few thoughts that have helped me with this issue.

I think at times the answer can seem complicated, but usually, it’s a simple, but difficult to admit answer: You are only a victim of circumstances you create. Let me explain. As I think back to something that happened to me a couple of years ago, being able to see things differently would not have changed the circumstance at the moment, but it would have had a great effect on how I viewed the world for the next few days, AND how easy I was to live with. What happened was that on my way to work at 6:00 a.m. I pulled to an empty three-way stop intersection, came to an almost complete stop, and then continued through the intersection. The instant I went through the intersection a police officer that had been hiding pulled me over, wrote me a ticket, and had no response when I asked if pulling me over was a matter of safety, or law. The next few days I was stressed, mad, unhappy and frustrated that I was the “victim” of a force being used to hide and catch people to generate revenue. I came up with all sorts of things in my head that I wished I could say to the officer, and stressed about how big the ticket would be, or how it would affect my insurance. Another area of stress was that I also worked for a company that pulled driving records annually, and had been hired by them only a few short months prior to this. I was not any fun to deal with for awhile.

The reality was that if I had been able to see out three months from that event, I would have been able to see that I still had a job, my insurance had not been affected, and even if it had, it was my responsibility since I made the decision to roll the stop sign, and life continued on. It did not end that early November morning when I got my first ticket.

The first key to being happier and less stressed is to take responsibility for your circumstances. By realizing that the things that happened to me were a result of my own actions, then I could make a choice to change things. I could have chosen not to roll the stop sign to start with. I could have chosen not to drive that road. After I got pulled over, I could have chosen simply to learn from the situation rather than get mad. At first, I tried to say that what happened to me was the policeman’s fault for pulling me over, the city for having those laws, or that I wished I could change things I couldn’t change. I ended up mad, stressed, and had a very negative effect on those around me until I saw what stressing over things I couldn’t change was doing.

This brings me to the second key. Change what you can. Let go of what you can’t. This is preached by hundreds of people; it’s not new news. It is hard to practice, though. If you aren’t willing to let go of the things you cannot control, you are affirming your commitment to being unhappy, and blaming your circumstances for your attitude. You are actually choosing to be stressed and unhappy. You are making the choice to allow others and their opinions, or your surroundings control you. Again, this is your choice. You may not be able to control if someone close to you passes away, or if your house gets flooded, or if someone thinks you will always be a failure.  What you can control is how you respond. You can choose to see yourself differently, the way God sees you! You can choose to look down the road to where you could be and make the choice to head there, and not stay where you are.

That is the third key: You have to see beyond. When you’re caught dealing with the bad day, the terrible boss, the speeding ticket, the broken down car, I would challenge you to look back and see how many tough things you have gone through that you thought in the moment that your life was at its worst, and you couldn’t figure out a solution for the life of you. And yet here you are on the other side of that situation! You have eaten, had a place to live, maybe even have had a friend or two along the way. If you look at things this way, it’s easier to think more clearly, and not be overwhelmed by the moment, day, or even week you are in right now. Life will always happen. What are you going to choose to do with it?

So you see, being happy is not about others treating you a certain way, or the job you are currently in. Lowering stress is not about your current circumstances suddenly vanishing and everything seeming to be fixed magically before your eyes. It is about you choosing to see life differently. Making choices that take you from where you don’t want to be, to where you do want to be. And remember, you have to be thankful for the people and things you experience. It is essential. It allows you to learn when it’s hard, to grow when there is a challenge, and to rest when you have achieved a goal. You have to be thankful. Which, interestingly enough, is also a choice you must make.

Be responsible. Change what you can. See beyond right now. It’s easier to see growth looking backwards than forwards. May God bless you as you seek to be more joyful and happy as one of His amazing creatures!

 

Do you want to be in charge of your circumstances? Do you want to stop being controlled by those around you? Do you want to learn how to change your own situation? Then click here to lower stress levels and gain control in simple daily steps!


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