Stress reduction made easy

Holly Woods

I used to be so nearsighted that I couldn’t find my glasses on the bedside table. If you’ve ever had vision problems — near or far — you know the frustrated feeling when you can’t find your glasses and everything is blurry. I used to get so mad — “Why me? Why is this so hard?”

You feel stress when there is a big gap between the way you want things to be and the way they are. And the stronger your revulsion to how things are, rather than the ideal, the more “stressed” you feel.

You’ve probably had at least one project at work that didn’t go Well, and you missed a deadline.

If you’re like most of us, your heart began racing. Your chest was tight. You felt like you had an avocado pit in your stomach.

“Reducing the stress in your life is as simple as learning to love what is on the planet, rather than seeking to perfect the world.”

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Then, just to make the suffering even worse, you got angry and start blaming, “whose fault was this?” or even felt shame, “they’ll think I’m a loser.”

You might work your way through those emotions and thoughts in a few minutes (given emotions only last a minute or so in your body), but more likely you hang onto it; you feel justified in your anger and aren’t ready to give it up just yet.

You might even think you “deserve” to be angry after what happened. And when you finally let go of all that, you realize how you think life “should be” is really just an illusion.

That kind of stress results in disappointment, resentment or betrayal. You feel let down by how unfair it is. And here’s the reality. Your stress and anxiety about life will diminish when you give up the belief that life should be different than it is. Or different than it has been, if your stress is about trauma or emotional pain from the past.

Most of us deal with our current stressors as if they were repeats of all the bad things that happened to us in the past.

That’s not saying you shouldn’t keep trudging forward. It’s just that every moment is perfect in itself. Everything you experience is teaching you something about life.

You’ve probably heard about mindfulness as a practical way to be present with your life “as is.” Being present lets you get comfortable with paradox, or the conflict between “what is” and “what should be” in everyday life. To allow those moments when you can’t see clearly.

Then you can embrace every aspect of life — the beauty and outrageousness of every moment, to develop an ease or acceptance of what’s in front of your blurry eyes.

Jack Kornfield writes in “Bringing Home the Dharma” about reducing your anxiety by letting go of rigid and idealistic ways of being, so you can discover flexibility and joy.

He writes that a “mature spirituality is not based on seeking perfection. It is based on the capacity to let go and to love, to open the heart to all that is.”

Reducing the stress in your life is as simple as learning to love what is on the planet, rather than seeking to perfect the world.

Holly Woods, Ph.D., helps adults who are struggling live the life they’re meant to have. She works with people in person, by Skype or phone. She can be reached at 970-331-1639 or To sign up for a complimentary phone session visit

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