You can’t eliminate stress, anxiety or the feeling of being overwhelmed from your life, nor would you want to. However, you can see them as wonderful places to practice some amazing things that will help in all areas of your life.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
– William James
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious … you can do one or more of these three practices:
1. The Practice of Training in Uncertainty. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it comes from a feeling of uncertainty. We don’t know how things are going to go, we worry that we can’t do it all, we don’t know how we’re going to do with any of it, we’re uncertain that we’re good enough to handle all of this. Uncertainty. Our minds don’t like that feeling, and we want stable ground under our feet, something solid, certain, or reassuring. Unfortunately life never gives us that reassuring certainty. So we’re always running, always trying to cope with the uncertainty by doing as much as we can, making lists, finding the perfect software or system, running to distractions. Instead, we can train our minds to stay with the uncertainty, and gradually become more comfortable in this state. And then we can be at peace in the middle of chaos.
2. The Practice of Letting Go. When we’re stressed out, it’s because we’re attached to something — attached to doing everything, attached to how people see us, attached to meeting a goal or deadline or reaching some outcome, attached to our self-image. What if we could let go of these attachments, and just be in the moment? Things would suddenly become easier. Luckily letting go is something that’s within our power.
3. The Practice of Doing Just One Activity. Our minds are stressed and overwhelmed because we’re thinking about our uncertain future … but what if we learned to trust the present moment? What if, instead, we just fully immersed ourselves in the activity before us? This is actually a letting go practice, and it’s also a being-fully-present practice. Just fully be in the activity you’re doing, just one activity. Just read this post. Just answer this single email. Just wash this one dish. As if it were the only activity and the most important activity in the world. Because it is.
These are all transformative practices, and you can practice them one at a time or one after the other (in the order above, most likely).
Each only takes a moment, but they can transform your world. Try them, with love in your heart, and see a deep trust in yourself start to grow.
Written by Leo Babauta