Misfortune nobly born is good fortune.― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I don’t handle stress well. That’s a kind way of saying I’m actually pretty terrible at dealing with both professional and personal stress. Yes, stress is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be chronic. The issue isn’t everyone else. It’s me. I’m creating behaviors that magnify my stress rather than remedy it.
I react emotionally to things I cognitively understand are likely to happen. My blood pressure spikes. I mutter outbursts of exasperation under my breath. I say things like “Really!” “I can’t do it all!” and “Jesus Christ!” These are just a few of my ramblings that have only got worse after the pandemic. It seemed harmless at the time. No one could hear me. I thought it was a novel way to release stress. Instead, it just increased it. I was hearing my own negative thoughts. Worse, I was vocalizing them. I’ve been programming myself to respond to stressful situations with unproductive and unhealthy behaviors. I’ve actually made my life more stressful.
Now, stress is a habit. It’s become a reflection of my mind.
- We are what we believe.
- We believe what we think.
- We think what we say.
If we live our lives focused on our stress, we can only become stressed. We’re not giving ourselves any other options. Why do we do this to ourselves?
I know there is a better way. I know I can end the cycle. If I change my thoughts, I can change the behaviors. And yet, somehow I don’t do it. I’ve stopped recognizing that I’m in control. I’m merely enduring the day to repeat the cycle tomorrow. That’s absurd. I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I see others go through the same madness. We’re creating a cycle of endless and mindless suffering.
We could do the opposite. We could focus on what we can control. We can control our response to the world. We can focus on what we can change, and stop bemoaning what chance throws our way when it’s inconvenient.
I’m going to take up that challenge. I’m going to break the cycle and live a nobler life. With a little resilience, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus will be my guides to breaking the stress habit for good.