In some cases, stress can be healthy. The ability to feel stress or anxiety is a result of our fight or flight response that have helped humans survive and succeed for so long. Feeling stress is natural; about finances, relationships, big-moment life decisions…these stresses exist for a reason. It’s our inherent way of focusing on what’s important and guiding ourselves to make positive decisions that bring joy or health to our lives.
But what happens when we stress about the small things in life? What happens when we let the anxiety behind being unable to control whether it rains, whether rescheduling an appointment will cause confrontation, or whether our spouse wants seafood or Thai for dinner on Saturday negatively impact our lives?
We live in a world where controlling even the smallest details of life can feel immensely important. This is partially because it’s so easy to control the small stuff in the 21st century. The ability to be constantly connected, schedule every aspect of life, and have immediate access to nearly everything makes it easy to feel all-powerful. It can feel like we’re in control of everything! Unfortunately, sometimes the stress that accompanies controlling these details isn’t worth dwelling on.
The stress that comes from feeling out of control is truly a vicious cycle. We become stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by a situation that is beyond our control, no matter how small. Then we become stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by our emotions and our inability to control them. The cycle continues, and it rarely benefits us emotionally. In fact, it’s usually harmful to the way we approach the world. Think of all the things we miss because we’re mired in our own stress.
As you look ahead, I challenge you to ask yourself this when feelings of stress creep up: Will this matter to me in 5 years?
If the problem you’re experiencing stress over won’t matter in 5 years, stop stressing about it. Release the need to control the outcome. Eliminating the need to control small details of life opens you up to live more fully, free of insignificant stress. It also opens you up to focus on the feelings of stress that crop up around dilemmas that will matter in 5 years – those “big moment” life choices that deserve extra consideration.
It would surely be a magical feeling to live a completely stress-free life. Stress is a result of being in situations where the outcome is not guaranteed. Rather than denying yourself the right to feel stress, refocus your stress on dilemmas that will have a long-term impact to make better use of the stress reaction.
Remember, when you begin to feel stressed, assess whether it will matter in 5 years. If not, stop stressing.