At long last, the antidote to stress.

There is no shortage of reasons to feel stressed out today. Turn on the news, step out your front door, log onto your next Zoom call and you’ll feel it. There is tension in our families, our work, our relationships, and our communities. So, how do we break free of this deluge of strain and pressure?

There is one solution.

An Inside-Out World

Most of us were raised to think that everything outside of us is causing us stress. What no one tells us is that the source of stress is not out there. Let me give you an example.

A woman and her ex-husband are doing their standard weekly kid swap. As part of their child-sharing agreement, the daughter spent a week with mom and now it’s dad’s turn. The woman, who is juggling a busy career while getting her Ph.D., brings everything for the exchange. As supplies are transferred from one car to another, the man, who is in a rush to get back to work in time for a career-making (or breaking) sales call, notices something. Their daughter’s soccer gear is missing.

Now freeze. What happens next, in complete silence, is key. If the man proceeds to tell himself his ex-wife neglected to bring the soccer supplies on purpose or because she’s inept, he’ll feel one form of stress (anger) or another (annoyance). If the woman goes on an inner rant that her ex-husband is going to criticize her or tells herself she’s a bad parent for forgetting the gear, she will feel one form of stress (fear) or another (guilt).

Your stress comes from the way you communicate inside first—that’s the source.

What’s also possible in the above example is that the parents’ self-talk is more skilled, meaning inner commentary makes neutral note of the situation (Oh, the gear isn’t here) without adding anything to it. Without the story (“She did this on purpose” or “I can’t believe I did that“), stress responses don’t get so triggered and the brain moves quickly into resolving things, such as a plan of action for how to correct the mistake for next time. This approach creates a less stressful interaction for all involved.

Shifting from Stress to Wellbeing

When we allow ourselves to get caught up in things and let our imagination tell us reasons why others do what they do, we create a ton of upset. When we replay events and edit or criticize others and ourselves, that’s when we feel tension. When we head into the day with mental checklists of what *must* happen or the day is a mess, we create a stressful view of life.

What’s required to reach the next level of success is a quieter mind, one much less weighed down by stress so you can actually hear your inner wisdom. Reducing stress from the inside out is the only approach that will work. Think about it, how many approaches outside of yourself have you tried over the years? Stress happens, but you are the antidote.

Consider these four practices to help you skill-build from the inside out:

1. Guard against negative projections by noticing your stress-filled story about events and situations:

  • What story am I telling myself about this situation or person right now?
  • Is it reducing stress or contributing to it?

2) Generate positive feelings before, during, and after your activities and encounters (learn more at HeartMath Institute).

3) Boost happiness and wellbeing with unconditional cooperation, meaning to cooperate with everything that’s going on by accepting situations and events as they are and taking action from there.

4) Adopt a regular meditation practice to calm your nervous system and boost your heart-mind coherence (view evidence-based research here).

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