Updated: Oct 11, 2022
Several years ago, I had a friend who underwent surgery on her hip and had to be on crutches for a while. So I cooked dinner for her and her family to save her the trouble of getting a meal together for her family (and from her husband’s idea of cooking). Since she lived far from me, I had to deliver dinner prior to picking my kids up from school.
When I arrived at my friend’s house, we exchanged pleasantries. She asked me how I was doing and I told her, “I’m so stressed right now.” (That’s the kind of friend I am. Even with a full schedule, I still make time to help out a friend). Her response surprised me, although it shouldn’t have because this is many people’s response. She said, “How can you be stressed? You teach stress management.” I then began to explain to her, like I will in this article, that this belief is a myth and how believing this, even subconsciously, sets you up to experience even more stress than you normally would.
My friend was operating under the subconscious belief that it’s possible to be stress free. Her comment revealed her belief that, if you understand stress management, especially to the point where you teach others to manage their stress, then you would be stress free. Ask yourself, if you were to hear me, a stress management expert, say that I was feeling stressed, what your reaction would be. Would you feel disappointed in me, question my competence and knowledge, wonder if you could ever reduce your stress if I can still feel stress?
This subconscious belief that it’s possible to be stress free is the cause of most of our feelings of failure to have our lives be exactly the way we want it. It subconsciously sets you up to experience more stress than you would without this belief. So how do you remove this subconscious belief? One way is with accurate knowledge and repeatedly reminding yourself of this knowledge.
In my workshops, I ask participants to answer True or False to the following statement: It is possible to be stress free. Most of the participants say False. Then I start to name people like the Dalai Lama, the Pope, etc. That’s when they really get confused and are no longer sure of whether this statement is really True or False. They are now getting a glimpse into their subconscious beliefs around stress.
The real answer is false. According to Hans Selye, an endocrinologist who outlined the stress response, describes stress as your response to any demand. Does life put demands on us? You bet it does. The list is endless: hunger, aging, deadlines, in-laws, kids, moving, work, fatigue, traffic, weather, noise, interruptions, time, car problems, taxes, long lines, parties, meeting new people, starting a new job, promotions, weddings, funerals, pregnancy, divorce, health problems, parents, finances, adopting a child….
If you’re alive, you’re responding to the demands of life. Some of those demands are pleasant and you don’t mind having them, such as attending your kid’s play at school or going to a friend’s party or starting a new job or going on a first date. Some demands are ones you’d rather not have, such as having to talk to your kid’s teacher about their behavior or having to confront someone you believe wronged you or having to change the batteries in your fire alarms in the middle of the night. Whether they’re demands you would rather not have or demands you don’t mind having, they’re all sources of stress.
The belief in a stress free life is the belief that your stress shouldn’t exist. If you subconsciously believe that it’s possible to be stress free then all of the sources of stress you would rather not have become bigger problems. When you resist what is, you create a resistance to meeting the demands of that stress and you become less effective at dealing with it. (Read that sentence again).
Start becoming aware of your stress and your thoughts about it. You may even catch yourself thinking thoughts such as, “Why is this happening to me?” (as if it shouldn’t be happening to you, now or ever). Then replace that thought with your newfound knowledge that you’re feeling the way you feel because you’re responding to a demand being placed on you. Congratulations! You’re alive and part of the experience called being human.
So, if you are ever in one of my workshops and hear me say that I’m feeling stressed, I hope that you’ll have a new reaction to that statement and maybe even respond, “Yup, that’s what being alive is all about. Now what are you going to do about it?” And then I’ll smile and start teaching you about managing that stress.