Stress is Optional: Learn to Let Go to Move Ahead
Birthrights Versus Learned Behaviours
We are placed on Earth in this body, mind, spirit and soul to experience vibrancy, optimum health, mental clarity and a surplus of positive emotional energy. With this, we have the capacity to offer our unique productive purpose, the unique privilege of a human-being. To cultivate and evolve this unique purpose and influence others’ potential is certainly fulfilment for self and others. To view problems as possibilities in the making and the premise of receiving plenty in all life-areas is our birthright.
Stress, on the other hand, is a learned, habitual choice stemming from:
- the way we are raised;
- life experiences;
- temporary or long-term environmental circumstances;
- the culture of how and where we create a living;
- the individuals we surround ourselves with;
- our filtering of information in all forms;
- the limitations we place on ourselves; and
- ultimately, our choice to see stress as the norm or optional.
Shifting our mindset to respond versus react to perceived hurdles to create what we do want is the most powerful of limitations we can conquer.
Meeting Unmet Needs
When we really delve into the source of our stress, fear and worn-out habits, we discover unmet needs fueling conversations, commitments and choices that perpetuate the very things that we don’t want. Once we understand what our unmet needs are, our focus can shift to fulfilling them.
I have devoted my adult life to growing into the next best version of self and influencing others to do the same, even though I wasn’t always aware of this purpose. While ambitious, a calculated risk-taker and generally optimistic, I consider myself a recovering “what if” worrier.
Worry resulting in anxiety has been my thing to continually work through stemming from an unhealthy sense of responsibility for self and others. This, combined with being extremely sensitive and my strong personality lead to:
- pushing when I needed to pause;
- saying yes when I needed to say no;
- not knowing nor honouring what my needs were; and,
- never asking for support to get my unmet needs fulfilled.
Learning to re-program my thoughts, attitude and the internal stories I tell myself to focus on what I want and how I expect to feel has resulted in plenty more ease, prosperity and wondrous life experiences.
Learning to Let Go (in Practice)
For me, understanding the premise of letting go—never mind knowing how to practicing letting go—was confusing at best for many years. I intellectually understood the value of letting go, to stress or fear less, but struggled with how to actually do this on a daily basis.
It’s been one of my greatest personal insights to grow into the next best version of me. I’ve honed mastery of order my entire life to offset fear, chaos and uncertainty with much success. The Law of Polarity plays into my need for order. Order always served me well, maybe too well.
My Own Turning Point
The turning point for me was my near-death experience at age 42. Since this life-changing experience I have:
- Written a book about the experience;
- committed to legal guardianship of a 14-year old girl (now 26);
- evolved an eleven-year romance including co-parenting a step-daughter;
- started another business; and,
- established physical, emotional and financial stability once again.
With a second crack at life, I took on an immense sense of responsibility to not waste the gift, but to tell the truth, I felt an underlying nagging and pressure (stress) of falling short in doing so. I was struggling to not stress, to not be fearful despite having lost everything that represented order, success, safety, strength and prosperity in my life (a spicy romance gone south, walking away from a million-dollar investor for my then thriving business, financial fall-out, a loss of identity in who I was and the incredible fear that my physical body had betrayed me – a super athletic, healthy young woman).
The falling short mindset I created was creating immense stress and “what if” fears with self-imposed limitations. I regained external order pretty impressively after the near-death experience, but there was little internal order or calm going on. My opportunity was to once and for all release my psychological “what if” brakes and focus on fresh desires.
Putting “What If” Fears to Rest
To let go and stress or fear less requires the release of psychological what if fears. At an early age, order was my coping mechanism to offset fear, anxiety, and chaos. I have vivid memories of being yay-high organizing family “happenings”. From my 20’s onward, I cultivated order, creating a dynamic and monetarily rewarding career; negotiated a half-million dollar contract for the inaugural Formula1 race in Vancouver at age 25; co-produced 80,000+ attendee international sport events; and, developed my own multi-city national event property with a USA expansion proposal in 2004 and million-dollar investor.
After my 2004 near-death experience, I decided to close my business and walked away from a million dollar investor, which resulted in financial fallout. Mastery of order kicked in as the priority to ensure the rug wouldn’t get pulled out from under me again, financially, physically, psychologically, at all costs. This polarity of order surfaced in a big way, creating many self-imposed limitations:
- Rampant order to off-set every potential negative what if my mind dreamed up for things falling apart again;
- Trading in my more spontaneous, humorous, fun self for responsibility of order on all levels;
- Internal disappointment and feeling somewhat damaged from relentless what ifs; and
- Not fully trusting in my body’s optimum strength and health despite being super healthy.
I read somewhere recently, “If you are afraid and don’t verbalize it, you are still afraid.” So, I acknowledged and began to verbalize this residual fear that was worn-out and had become more uncomfortable than comfortable.
The Comfort of Being Uncomfortable
To let go and stress or fear less means getting comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve spent considerable time influencing clients over the past twelve years to do just this through moment to moment choices. Some fear is healthy and necessary for growth, but most is “Fantasized Experience Appearing Real.”
The game-changer was a commitment to shift my focus from stress and fear to inspired-action for what I did want. The pretense of maneuvering or resisting to move around all the what if’s was exhausting in its own way. I didn’t feel comfortable for a long time after my near-death experience. So, I had to learn to let go and struggle less with what if’s is by trusting in my own self to:
- Be less attached to internal negative what if chatter;
- Be less serious and invite more humour back into the fold;
- Be less responsible in mastery of order, trusting all is good as is;
- Be less judgmental of myself in feeling I’ve fallen short and follow inspired-action; and
- Let go of stress and fear less, trusting more in my body’s capability.
“Think Any Think That You Wish”
To stress/fear less is to befriend fear with the understanding that some stress is healthy and necessary while most is simply worn-out habits, hard-wired on a cellular level. Growth and greatness resides in every fear-filled thought, image or attitude we possess as we transform it. As stress arises, we always have the choice to respond versus react. In the moment of awareness that stress is running the show, we can respond to literally re-program what ifs: this is the way through. As Dr. Seuss said “Think! You can think any think that you wish.”
Thoughts, images and behaviours are three things we have control and order over. To let go and stress/fear less is to liberate yourself by a shift toward a love-filled approach in the moment of awareness of stress/fear’s presence. Growing into the next best version of self involves feeling uncomfortable as we move through limiting beliefs and fears.
“Stress is Optional” is a process that will shift every part of your life for the better. There are so many remarkable individuals to learn and grow from in the form of reading, guided meditations, books and programs. This series is really in honour of them. I demonstrate my appreciation by recommending their books, meditations and programs which have helped me greatly and influenced my approach with my clients, friends and family.
That said, I am not a certified health care professional, so if you are experiencing levels of stress that are compromising your daily sense of well-being and interfering with your sense of safety, then you may want to explore speaking to a trusted doctor.
Stress Solutions Tip: Gratitude
Most times when we’re in a stressed state of what if’s we’re focusing on what we don’t have or want. This actually creates more of the same due to our focus on it. In the moment of awareness of being in this state, you can make the choice to flip your thoughts and attitude toward what you do want to be, have and feel. This is so ridiculously simple that most people believe it doesn’t work! This tool has transformed my worry into ease.
A dear friend of mine refers to this internal “what if” stress as “committee meetings” that plague so many in the middle of the night. The following ritual is one I carry out nightly when I turn the lights off to drift off to sleep. It shifts your emotional energy to focus on what is already good and prosperous. You can practice this as many times daily when you become aware of being in a state of “what if” anxious, worried mode.
- First, take two to three deep breaths in and out—mindfully breathe in love and breathe out what if stress.
- Now, create a mind-movie from the beginning of your day to now and recite all the things you are thankful for (from mundane to the epic);
- Now, think of three individuals you want to send love to (if you’re at odds with someone, send them more love); and
- Lastly, think of one thing that is wonder-filled that you want to have happen tomorrow for self or others
Here’s the catch. If you’re in a super heightened stress state, you may think there is nothing to be thankful for. This is when you need to focus on the things you take for granted that bring you back into the present moment and allow you to approach your next move from a place of inspired-action versus fear. Fear begets fear, worry begets worry, love begets love, and inspired-action begets inspired-action.
Some examples I bring to mind often are are: the gift of this day and being alive; the gift of first world problems vs third world; a fridge full of food, the love of a pet; the bowl of home-made soup; my ability to choose; and the opportunity in my perceived challenge.
Christine Monaghan is a human-potential champion, co-creating solutions with leaders and teams to get from goal-setting to goal-achieving with a stress solutions approach. Her commitment—to influence clients to goal-achieve utilizing proven success principles; provoke a cultural shift from “stress is normal” to “stress is optional”; increase productive potential; decreased stress –based immense costs; become the leader others want to follow. Christine is a consultant; 1:1 coach, eLearning platform founder, author and international podcast host (Mental Health News Radio network).