When we pass stress on to others, we create a more stressful world.
It doesn’t matter how we got stressed in the first place, or whose fault it was originally. As soon as we’re stressed, it is our responsibility, and what we do with it is up to us.
When we bring our stress forward, into the next thing we do, it has an effect. We make costly mistakes. We fail to notice novel solutions. We give other people a difficult day. And then they are liable to do the same to others. In other words, we become agents of stresscalation.
As I said in my last post, Stop the Stresscalation, I consider this an ethical issue. How can we talk seriously about stopping wars in distant countries, or having saner political discussions, or reducing health care costs, when we ourselves are passing our stress on to others right around us? Even to those we love and cherish?
As April is National Stress Awareness Month, I’d like you to join me in taking a small but significant step in stopping the stresscalation. Just pick one day this month and on that day, take this pledge: “The stress stops here.” On that day, try not to pass your stress on to anyone else.
No matter what is happening around us, we always have the option to experience it from a more peaceful state of mind. Sure, there may be some real stressors in our lives, but almost every stressful situation would be improved if we took a moment to unstress ourselves. And no matter how stressful the situation, being stressed about it is just not a very effective way to deal with it.
What I’m suggesting is that you try to reframe each stressful experience in this way: Instead of blaming others for the stress, or trying to remove the stressor, consider the fact that you are stressed to be an invitation — an imperative — to unstress yourself immediately.
In other words, before attempting to eradicate the apparent cause of your stress — for this might take a lot of time, or might not even be possible — take a moment to turn down the volume on your own stressed-out mind. Consider the fact that you are stressed to be the urgent issue. And in that moment, resolve not to pass your stress on to anyone else.
You could take a moment to meditate (my preferred approach), or you could do a little dance, sing a song, beat your chest and yell like Tarzan, force a belly laugh or go for a quick run around the block. Just make sure that the stress doesn’t get lodged in your body, your voice or your state of mind. And make sure that whatever life just dumped in your backyard doesn’t start poisoning your neighbors.
Of course, you may not be able to clear all your stress in a moment. And it might not be appropriate to unstress yourself in public. But just by turning down the volume on your stress a little bit, you can make a big change in your day and help others.
At the very least, admit to the people around you that you are stressed, because if you can acknowledge your stress honestly, other people will have an easier time protecting themselves from it. As soon as you own the stress as yours, there is less chance that they will take it on as theirs.
Taking this pledge can change the entire direction of your day. You can really turn things around in a moment. You might feel less victimized by stress. You might release your habit of responding to stress stressfully. You will certainly liberate the next moment from your stressed-out state of mind, and with a less-stressed-out state of mind, you might encounter fewer stressful situations.This might be one of the most important things you can do for your health.
But my main point is that taking this pledge might be the one of the most valuable gifts you could give to others. It will benefit all the people you love, all the people you work with, and all the people you just happen to bump into (or, rather, don’t bump into, because now that you’re less stressed, you can see where you are going).
And all it takes is a simple decision: “The stress stops here.”
And that decision only takes a moment.
So instead of passing on your stressful reverberations to others — causing mistakes, disagreements, miscommunications and grievances down the line — I ask you to create some space, in the next moment, that is free of stress. Create a clearing in which a more peaceful or pleasant experience might be born.
At the very least, free the future from the stress of your past.