The Stress of Fear & Clinging
The root of most stress is a lack of physical/mental/emotional/spiritual nourishment, along with fear of what you think might happen and clinging to how you think things should go.
On the surface you might say you are stressed out because you have so much you "have to" do. This kind of denial of personal responsibility allows you to perceive yourself as a victim of circumstance rather than an empowered decision maker in your own life. If asked, you would likely say that you don't want to be a victim and yet you often find yourself thinking this way.
There must be some advantage to being stressed out and pointing to all the work you "have" to do. There must be some important reason you hear yourself seemingly brag about how stressed you are.
Bragging about being stressed, along with unconsciously creating a stressful life, are often indirect ways of asking to be accepted, loved, and seen. In North American culture, where worth is often measured by how much you are getting done, this is easy to understand.
You can begin to break patterns of fear, clinging, and a consistently undernourished body-heart-mind through compassion for yourself and reminders of what's really true.
Perhaps the most basic intervention is to remind yourself that you really do need to know in a deep way that you are loved and accepted by others. Whether you are two, twenty-two, or sixty-two years old, you need others in your life who can reflect back to you your innate lovability and hold you in unconditional respect.
As you notice fear and clinging arise under the socially acceptable guise of "stressed out", you can turn your awareness to the love of these special people and start to dismantle the delusion that your worthiness depends on what you achieve. Taking even three breaths of mindfulness to find the place in you that can feel this sense of being loved and accepted is helpful in breaking the pattern.
Sometimes this very consistent mindfulness practice is all that is needed to significantly shift the level of stress you experience. You can be engaged in the same activities with a different frame of mind. With practice you can remain connected to your choice and enjoy how what you do serves life.
However, if "stressed out" is a consistent refrain for you, then more substantial changes might be needed. If you are driven to prove your lovability through getting more done, then you have likely created a life style and attitude that consistently deprives you of meeting many of your needs.
Take a few moments now, close your eyes and bring into your awareness someone who you know loves and cares about you. Let a warmth come into your chest and gently encourage your body to let go and relax so that this warmth can fill your whole body.
From this state of mindful loving-kindness, begin to reflect on your life and decisions in a gentle way. Ask yourself, "What can I let go of? What do I need to give more attention to?" Sometimes examining your fantasies and day dreams can help you name the needs that are asking for your attention. For example, I know that when I have the sudden impulse to go to Mexico, that I am missing a sense of groundedness in my life (a need that is easily met for me when I am in Mexico).
As you begin to shorten your "have to" list, it will be important to notice the truth about those special people in your life. Did anyone stop loving you because you didn't get as much done as you thought you should? Expressing distorted views out loud gives you and others the opportunity to see delusions for what they are and cultivate more supportive beliefs and experiences.
This week commit to engaging the mindfulness practice described above each time you notice yourself feeling stressed out. Write yourself reminder notes or set reminders on you phone to support you in remembering to practice.