A teaching from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition asks “If you can change a situation, then why worry? If you cannot change a situation, then why worry?” This explains the reason for much of our stress in life. We worry too much and all of that worry changes nothing yet makes us physically and mentally sick. If the solution to all of this stress is to relax then why is it so hard to relax?
All of us have probably experienced being told “don’t worry about it” when we are upset about something and I think it is fair to say that being told not to worry never helps. If the solution to stress and anxiety is that simple then why can’t we do it?
The problem is that we’ve trained ourselves since childhood to have internal dialogs about all of the bad things that are going to happen because of the event that set off the worry. We are afraid and trying to think away the fear. These dialogs are like movie scripts that we write, direct and star in. Then we forget it’s a movie and respond to it believing it is reality. If we can step back and realize that it is just a movie, we can then do as the teaching suggests, stop worrying and relax. The outcome will be the same and we can be worry less. Yet I suspect that many of you may object to this idea saying that you have real problems that you need to find a solution for.
Life is complicated with many issues to grapple with. However it is useful to distinguish between problem solving and worrying. They are not the same thing. Actively searching out solutions to problems, dialoging, researching and trying things are constructive strategies that actually reduce stress by allowing you to feel like you have some power and can take charge of a situation. Worrying is a fantasy activity that constructs a dreaded future with no positive outcome. The energy behind worrying is fear and fear is a normal response to uncertainty. So how do we constructively deal with the fear and uncertainty that is a normal part of life?
1.Acknowledge you are feeling fear.
2.Realize that making the leap from fear to anxious thinking is a voluntary conditioned act.
3.Find the gap between the feeling and the thinking. It really is there!
4.Rest in the gap and feel the fear. Notice how that feeling changes when you pay attention.
5.Just relax and slow down your mind.
6.Now engage in constructive problem solving. If no solution presents itself at this time, rest, knowing that either this is not yet the time to deal with the problem or that you don’t yet have enough information to make a decision.OH! We're All Stressed Out! by Larry Cappel,