Why There’s No “Avoiding Stress” This Holiday Season

Susan Stewart is a stand-up comic turned inspirational author and speaker based in Toronto, Canada

Yep, that’s right. There’s no “avoiding stress” this holiday season. Well, not in the way you may think or talk about stress.

What we tend to do is view stress as this inevitable effect certain people, events, and situations have on us. By blaming our stress on external circumstances, we think the only way to avoid stress is by avoiding certain people, events, and situations.

A few days ago a friend of mine said to me, “We’ve decided not to go my in-laws’ for Christmas this year – we want to avoid that stress.” I couldn’t help but wonder how her in-law’s managed to control her brain and change her state of mind. Voodoo dolls? A hex? Maybe they put something funky in the stuffing.

The truth is stress is a response – our response to external circumstances like in-laws. Stress is the outcome after perceiving someone or something as stressful. Think of “stress” as a short form for “what happens after stressful thoughts are created about certain people, events, and situations.”

The truth is my friend could go to her in-laws and still be able to avoid stress by choosing not to perceive the situation as stressful or create stressful thoughts about she is observes.

I know it’s comforting to place the blame for our discontent on the challenges we face each day, but by thinking that someone or something can control how we feel, we are giving away the power that we possess to enjoy the holidays and the days beyond.

No one and nothing that we observe can alter our state of mind. The only way to avoid stress during the holidays is to choose to avoid creating stressful thoughts during the holidays.

This is the freedom we were born with – the freedom of choice. We can always choose how we respond to our external circumstances – even in-laws.

Similarly, we disempower ourselves (and quite frankly, don’t take accountability for our misery) when we say, “There is so much stress at work.” Despite how challenging it can be to have a job and work with some seriously challenging people, no office sits empty at night coming up with ways to freak you right out when you return in the morning. I don’t know if anyone would ever dare to own their struggle but if they did they would say, “I am creating so many stressful thoughts at work.”

Another popular expression is, “I’m under a lot of stress.” Well, that just sounds downright kinky. Whether your mind joined me in the gutter or not, it does conjure up an interesting image and one that isn’t realistic. How can we be under something that no one and nothing can place on top of us?

The same response-ibility goes for finding peace. Peace is not something we can obtain from someone or something. We often talk about peace like we set it down years ago and can’t for the life of us remember where we put it. Because peace is also a response, the only realistic opportunity we have to chill out is to find ways to be peaceful. Compassion, unconditional love, patience, acceptance, and maybe a little vodka.

Give yourself the gift of being peaceful despite the shopping to do, the meals to prepare, and the family dysfunction to face.

Exercise your freedom of choice this December because there is no avoiding stress this holiday season if you blame your stress on the holiday season.

 

2 Responses to “Why There’s No “Avoiding Stress” This Holiday Season”

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