GETTING CRITICIZED BY your supervisor;
finding out that someone you love has lied to you; receiving
some bad news these things cause stress. And stress has
negative consequences, as you well know. But these are only stressful
events. The source of stress that wreaks the greatest
havoc on your health and sanity is ongoing stressful circumstances.
Like what? Like when a stepchild moves
in with you, permanently disrupting the privacy you had with
your spouse; or when your younger brother marries someone who
verbally abuses your favorite niece. These are the kinds of stresses
you have to live with. They dont just come up and
rock your world for a little while and then go away. They stay.
And, like living in a house with a fire alarm going all day long,
it starts to wear you down.
But there is something you can do about
it. When you have an ongoing stressful circumstance in your life,
you can modify your level of responsibility. Either take
more responsibility or less. Start by asking yourself, Am
I trying to control something I cant or shouldnt
control? or Is there something I should take responsibility
for that I have been leaving out of my control?
It might help to write it out. Write the
questions and then jot down some ideas where are you taking
too much or too little control of some aspect of your life?
Be specific. You are responsible for your
child in general, for example, but specifically, do you
control what he wears or what he eats or when he goes to bed?
You must decide. What exactly do you control and what is either
out of your control or none of your business? You must decide.
If something is out of your control (or
is none of your business and youve been trying to make
it your business), you will relieve yourself of a lot of stress
by letting go of it. Drop that one. Recognize its out of
your control and busy yourself with things that are in your control.
You may be in the habit of trying to control that thing,
so youll have to remind yourself again and again for a
couple weeks: Oh yeah, Im not trying to control that
anymore. Write it on a card and carry it with you. Post
notes to yourself on your bathroom mirror. Do whatever you have
to do to remember you no longer have to waste your energy trying
to control that thing.
Now, if you find something you should
and can control and havent been, roll up your sleeves
and get to work on solving the problem. Use the problem-solving
method from page
266. Deliberately take steps to repair the troubling circumstances.
Thatll relieve your stress better than anything else. It
may be difficult at first; it may actually cause you extra stress
to face the situation and try to deal with it, but in the long
term, your stress level will go down.
Take responsibility for what you are responsible
for, and stop taking responsibility for what is not your responsibility.
Its that simple. Control what you can control, and let
the rest go. It will relieve a great deal of your stress. Control
stress by stressing control.
Control what is your responsibility.