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How to Use Stress to Improve Your Life

We are Designed to live at Peace

When we listen to the news there’s always a story about shortages.  You’ve heard the reports, jobs are in short supply, affordable housing is in short supply, safety, clean water, and even good men are hard to come by.  But there is one thing that you’ve never heard of being in short supply, and that is stress.  There is an abundance of stress.  It’s everywhere.  When your alarm clock goes off in the morning, you wake up to the traffic report, “It’s a parking lot on 95.”  You get in the car, turn on your radio and hear that the Dow Jones is plummeting and the economy is in danger.  The kids’ school calls you at 10 am and you need to leave work. You arrived to work late due to the traffic on 95, but now you’re leaving early because of a child emergency.  You’re conflicted because job security is in short supply.  Stress and the guarantee of more stress rank up there with death and taxes; in other words, it’s inevitable.   

I know that sounds like bad news, but I have always believed in using whatever shows up in my life to get what I want out of life.  And because stress seems to be the one supply item that I never run short of, I decided that I would learn to use stress as a main ingredient in creating the life of my dreams.  Resisting stress takes up too much of our valuable time (not to mention the fact that the act of resisting creates more stress).  We are designed to be whole and complete.  We get disturbed and anxious when we believe that a situation will rob us of our wholeness and leave us incomplete.  Another way to say this is to say that we are designed to live at peace, the definition of peace being – wholeness, completeness, nothing missing, nothing broken, totality.  Anything or anyone that we perceive as robbing us of our peace causes us stress.

I can’t change the traffic, I can’t change the Dow Jones, I can’t predict the weather or the next inconvenient emergency that shows up in my day, but I can change my perception of everything.  This doesn’t mean that I plaster a plastic smile on my face and deny the presence of these unwanted circumstances in my life.  Good for you if you can do that and still be healthy, but I’ve tried that, and it just led to suppressed emotions, which – you guessed it- led to more stress.  About 15 years ago I changed my approach to stress, and it has made a world of difference.  Two simple steps: first I acknowledge the presence of stress.  I know that sounds silly, but too often we rush through the events in our life.  We don’t give ourselves time or permission to feel what we are feeling.  It’s so important to value self.  This doesn’t mean that we give ourselves permission to waddle in our own emotions.  No, instead we just acknowledge what we are feeling.  Second, I utilize the power of words. When I catch myself becoming overwhelmed with an over crammed schedule or the unrealistic demands on my time, I begin a process of self-talk that goes like this: “Dravon, you’re having a whirlwind of a day, and you are becoming stressed. Stop and breathe.”  Sometimes I recite the items or events that are causing me to feel stress.  Then I remind myself that I am important and that I will never finish all the work or meet everyone’s expectation, and that’s quite okay.  Often throughout the day, I remind myself that I am safe and that I am whole and complete. 

The more stress shows up in my life, the more opportunities I have for genuine self-love.  When I take the time to love me, the residual effect is that I am more loving and compassionate with others.  Voila! Stress has just had a paradoxical effect on my life, my family, my community, and possibly the world.

By Dr. Dravon James, founder of Everyday Peace, inspirational speaker, and author of Freedom is Your Birthright. Learn more at www.DrDravonJames.com.

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