Existential Psychology

Do Not Let Little Stressors Stress You Out

By  | 

Most of us are aware by now that sustained stress increases the probability of various physical health problems and reduces life expectancy, which should be negatively reinforcing enough on its own to make us stop and closely examine the current practice of our lives and whether the tradeoff is worth it.

But we want to go a different direction in this article, which is to point out that regardless of whether or not any health problems develop or whether or not life expectancy is cut short the quality of the time allotted to you will certainly be negatively affected in a profound way unless you do something to change your relationship to the various daily stimuli you interpret as stressful. And if you don’t then when you’re on your death bed you’ll probably think to yourself, “Why didn’t I let myself enjoy the wonders of life while I had the chance?”

Obviously the ideal is to cut as many stressors out as possible but most of us don’t have the luxury of moving to a quiet monastery to practice meditation every day. Most of us wouldn’t even be interested in that life if we were given the chance. By choosing to operate within the complex system of the modern human world we necessarily open ourselves up to stressors of all kinds.

But where we really drop the ball is getting tunnel vision and allowing these stressors to exert undue influence over our psyches, to cause us to be stressed out to the point where we’re incapable of noticing or appreciating any of the good things around us. Thich Nhat Hanh uses a nice metaphor that can be applied to this conversation, which is that if you’re walking through a garden and you notice some weeds those weeds don’t have to take away from your enjoyment of all of the other blooming flowers. You don’t decide the whole garden is terrible just because of those few weeds.

If you want to stop letting the weeds of stress block out your awareness of the blooming flowers of life we recommend that you make a list of the personal stressors that get to you the most, the stressors that take you out of the moment. They’re different for everybody. Then start paying more mindful attention to when these stressors show up and as your mood starts to change ask yourself if you think that little stressor deserves to exert such a profound negative impact over your psyche. Pretend you’re on your death bed and ask yourself, “If I had the chance to experience life in good physical and mental condition for one more day would I let this little stressor keep me from sucking the nectar out of my experience?”

If we want to live in and move through our modern world stressors of all kinds are unavoidable but the global stress that keeps us from positive contact with people and the world is very much avoidable. It all starts with deciding that life is far too short and far too precious to keep wasting it on unwanted negative states of mind.