We create much of our own happiness, as well as much of our own distress. It’s true that circumstances can be extremely trying at times, unpredictable, and devastating. But sometimes we are unaware of the ways we add avoidable layers of distress on top of those that are unavoidable. A few ways we can add to our own distress include:
- Seeing only black and white when there is a gray solution. Many people feel unnecessarily trapped between two choices. If you find yourself in this situation, get creative and examine the multiple gray options that may be harder to see but equally valid.
- Too much helping. I recently heard that we do not get burned out by being busy, but by doing things we don’t really want to be doing. If it is a strong value you hold to be generous and helpful, do so. But do it in ways that maximize your gifts and desires. Chances are someone else loves doing the things you find draining, and you love some things that others would find draining.
- Engaging in self-criticism. Whatever you’ve done, it is okay to evaluate it by taking a curious, mindful step back from the situation and asking yourself what went well, what didn’t, and why. But to beat yourself up repeatedly for anything that’s been done will add distress and minimize your effectiveness.
By avoiding these common patterns, we may not be able to eliminate stress, but we may be able to substantially reduce its impact on us. This frees up energy that can be used in much better ways!