Getting criticized your supervisor; finding out that someone you love has lied to you; receiving some bad news — these things cause stress. And stress has negative consequences, as you well know. But these are only stressful events. The source of stress that wreaks the greatest havoc on your health and sanity is ongoing stressful circumstances.
But there is something you can do about it. When you have an ongoing stressful circumstance in your life, you can modify your level of responsibility. Either take more responsibility or less. Start by asking yourself, “Am I trying to control something I can’t or shouldn’t control?” or “Is there something I should take responsibility for that I have been leaving out of my control?”
It might help to write it out. Write the questions and then jot down some ideas — where are you taking too much or too little control of some aspect of your life?
If something is out of your control (or is none of your business and you’ve been trying to make it your business), you will relieve yourself of a lot of stress by letting go of it. Drop that one. Recognize it’s out of your control and busy yourself with things that are in your control. You may be in the habit of trying to control that thing, so you’ll have to remind yourself again and again for a couple of weeks: “Oh yeah, I’m not trying to control that anymore.” Write it on a card and carry it with you. Post notes to yourself on your bathroom mirror. Do whatever you have to do to remember you no longer have to waste your energy trying to control that thing.
Now, if you find something you should and can control and haven’t been, roll up your sleeves and get to work on solving the problem.Deliberately take steps to repair the troubling circumstances. That’ll relieve your stress better than anything else. It may be difficult at first; it may actually cause you extra stress to face the situation and try to deal with it, but in the long-term, your stress level will go down.
Take responsibility for what you are responsible for, and stop taking responsibility for what is not your responsibility. It’s that simple. Control what you can control, and let the rest go. It will relieve a great deal of your stress. Control stress by stressing control.
Control what is your responsibility.