Stress is not the answer

I wrote the following in 2015 after having an epiphany at age 64.

This post is about stress and anxiety. Just read on, I’ll get to it…

This week I have had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time. And dreams. I’ve had a lifelong history of seemingly requiring less sleep than the “average” person. Even as a baby my mother always said I did not like to sleep. My earliest memories of sleep were lying in bed with my mind racing, thinking about stuff and unable or unwilling to go to sleep. Sleep has often seemed like a vile necessity. Something that took me away from doing and thinking. As a young(er) adult, I slept 4-5 hours at night. Sometimes 6, but seldom more. As I have aged, my sleep needs have been more along the lines of 6-7 hours. Then I am awake.

In recent years, worry, stress and anxiety have been my bedtime companions, replacing my previous think/philosophize/create mode as I should have been going to sleep. While the latter was always invigorating and engaging, the former has been debilitating. I know many people suffer from stress and anxiety. I want to offer up something I recently discovered.

You are in control of your stress. There is nothing in life that is stressful unless you allow it to be. Think about the things in your life that create stress for you. How would they be affected if you simply did not stress about them? Would those situations be worse? No. Would they be better? No. Your stress does not affect anything external. Stress and anxiety fix nothing. They change nothing. Except your state of mind and health. There is absolutely (and I mean that literally) nothing in the world that stress can change. Nothing.

This is not to say that there are not things in life that need attention. If something needs fixing, then fix it. Or not. But do not stress about it. If you cannot change it, then learn to accept it. Even in matters of life and death, stress will not help. Action might. But again, if it is out of your control, then let it go. This does not mean being passive. Quite the contrary. Take charge. Allow your dissatisfaction to spur you to action. Stress is not action.

Take a deep breath, and think about whatever it is that causes you stress. Look it in the eye and vow to either change it or accept it. But also vow to be in control. To relax. To not stress yourself. It has taken me many years to come to this realization and since I have, I have felt so much better. I am human and I sometimes find myself stressing over something. When I do, I mentally sit myself down and have a chat with myself. I remind myself to either change it or accept it. I do not like the things I cannot change that I wish I could, but stress does not change anything except my state of mind. And I do not want that state of mind.

I sleep better since I had this epiphany several months ago. I still struggle with sleep sometimes, but I am back to lying awake thinking and creating, not stressing. Mostly. My wish for you is that you understand this in your life long before I did. I wish I had known this twenty years ago—or more!