Stress – or what Buddhists call dukkha – is a part of life. It is necessary and sometimes even beneficial. But we no longer only experience stress in life-or-death situations or in small healthy doses. We now create stress in our lives on a daily, if not hourly, basis. This unnecessary stress is wrecking havoc on our bodies, health and relationships. It’s cause? A simple 10-letter word: resistance. We can all end adventitious stress by accepting what is. I have spent the majority of my life uptight, stressed-out, anxious, and any other term that describes a person living with a constant stream of stress. When I realized that I was responsible for 90% of stress in my life, I was thrilled. When I learned that to end the suffering was as simple as accepting what is, I was elated. Now, when I sense a stressful reaction to something, I ask myself “am I resisting or accepting what is?” 9 times out of 10 I am resisting. Then, I take a few deep breaths and gently remind myself to accept the situation, and I notice my stressful reactions float away.
There is certainly a time and place for stress. It is a very useful (and even healthy) evolved trait when experienced in small doses. But nowadays we experience stress when we run late to a meeting, get stuck in traffic, have a bad hair day, lose an unsaved document from our computer, miss our connection due to a delayed flight, or a million other realities. Recall how your body feels or how you behave when resisting any of these situations. I get hot, frazzled, and irritable, my heart beats faster, and I might lash out at those around me. When I resist what is, I react in unhealthy, ineffective ways.
Let’s say I’m running late to an appointment. I resist the reality of the situation and begin to feel stress in my body. I run a red light (endangering me and others), I flip off and yell obscenities at a fellow driver, and I raise my voice at my boyfriend who is in the car with me. Now, let’s imagine I accept the fact that I am going to be late for my appointment. I calmly notify the person that I am running late, drive safely to my destination, apologize when I get there (if necessary) and make a mental note to try and leave earlier next time. I recognize that this is just one example that might not even cause stress in your life, but it goes to show how easy it can be to resist what is.
Acceptance does not generate apathy; acceptance generates peace. When I accept what is, it does not mean that I do not handle it or respond to it when necessary. It simply means that I create space for responding in a much more balanced and mindful way. Plus, I receive all of the health benefits associated with removing 90% of stress from my life.
Next time you start to feel stress reactions, ask yourself “am I resisting or accepting what is?” If you are resisting (which is most likely the case), take a few deep breaths, gently remind yourself it is what it is, and then create space to figure out how to most effectively respond to the situation (if necessary).
Can you recall a time (or consistence times) when you resisted what was and how you reacted as a result? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.