How to Control What You Can and Let Go of the Rest

Here’s my latest Examiner.com article. You can see the original post HERE.

Everyday stressors, such as broken appliances, leaving a bag of groceries at the store, and even stubbing a toe can build up into a big bundle of stress if we let them. Each thing in itself may be just a minor inconvenience, but when several things happen in a short period of time, it leaves one wondering if this chain of events is some type of punishment from Beyond.

Spiritual beliefs aside, it is very important to deal with each stressor as it happens. Even if there is nothing you can do about the situation at the moment, you can make sure that you perceive it in a healthy way, which will minimize the stress hormones in your body. That, in turn, will help you feel calmer, and over the long run, will give you the benefits of better physical and mental health.

As an example, let me tell you about what’s been going on in my life lately. Two weeks ago, one of our beloved dogs passed away. A week later, my daughter’s pet hamster died. The next weekend, I found out that an old friend of mine had passed away from a motorcycle accident. “I wonder what’s going to die next,” I remember thinking. The next day, my washing machine died.

Had one thing happened with lots of time in between the next, I would have had proper time to process the situation and moved toward acceptance of the loss. However, the day I started feeling a little better about losing our dog, the hamster died. He was an old, spoiled hamster, and his death wasn’t totally unexpected, but when added to the grief I still had to process about the dog, the rodent’s passing was all of a sudden very tragic to me. Not two days later, I heard about my friend. When the washer conked out, I had to laugh at the answer to my question about what would die next!

Believe me, laughing at the washer was a choice. There are four people that live in my home, along with a small zoo of furry friends, so an inoperable washer is a huge inconvenience. When I figured out that it was really broken, I thought about the question I had posed to the Beyond. I could have gotten frustrated or enraged or depressed. But I thought that I’d much rather have an appliance “die” than another person or pet. So, in a way, the fact that the machine broke was a blessing.

Don’t get me wrong: I did have a few really bad days. One day, I had a hard time getting out of bed because of the crushing grief. I was able to sit with the feelings and write about them. I accepted them as they came and remembered that they would pass. While I still have moments of sadness that seemingly strike from out of nowhere, I allow myself to feel them and cry if I need to. There is no “proper” time period for grief.

The broken washer gave me an opportunity to be pro-active. I couldn’t control the fact that my pets and friend were gone, but I did have some control over the appliance situation. I found a wonderful website called justanswer.com, which has hundreds of experts in many different fields on hand to answer questions about various things. They hooked me up with appliance expert Chas, and he helped me order the proper part, sent me a video that showed how to install it and helped me troubleshoot the machine after the part was installed. Now, the machine is functional, and I feel accomplished and proud, which are great counter-feelings to grief.

Next time you’re having “one of those days (or weeks or months),” make sure to carve out time just for yourself so that you can process each thing individually. If the situation is beyond your control, as most situations are, it’s healthiest to just accept it. That sounds easy, but it’s not. If you need some questions to ask yourself so that you can objectively prove that acceptance is the “proper” thing, feel free to use these:

  • How does this situation make me feel?
  • Am I OK with feeling this way for a while? (If the answer is yes, then you’ve already gotten to acceptance.)
  • Will these feelings hurt me in the long run (e.g. put stress on me)?
  • Is there anything that I can do to fix this situation? (If the answer is yes, then take the steps you need to in order to get things “right” again, like I did with researching my washer.)
  • If there’s nothing I can do about this, who is being hurt the most by my feelings?
  • Have I been able to sit and experience my feelings without running away from them?
  • How can I look at this situation differently so that I feel healthier feelings?

Moving through stressful, unhealthy feelings toward acceptance takes practice, as many of our stress-producing thoughts are very automatic. However, it is possible to find the “silver lining” or “lesson” in every situation, given enough time. Just remember that the one thing that stays the same in life is change. This too shall pass, my friend.

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