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How to Better Manage Stress and Live a More Peaceful Life (with or without Mental Health Counseling)

Whether or not a person could benefit from mental health counseling can depend on a variety of things. Sometimes a person needs help from a mental health therapist because he or she is struggling with a major mental health disorder. Other times, a person may seek counseling because he or she is trying to overcome an addiction. Still, others may need therapy because they are seeking healing from emotional or physical trauma.

But whether or not you fit into any of these situations, you experience stress at least to some degree. Everyone does. And couldn’t we all agree that everyone could benefit from managing their stress better? So whether or not you are presently seeking help from a mental health counselor, below is one major key to reducing stress and living a more peaceful life, a key we all can use.

Learn how to detach

Detachment is often thought of as a negative thing, and in many scenarios it is. However, there some pearls to be gathered from the teachings of detachment or non-attachment within Buddhism.

One of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that life is dukka, which some translate to meaning life is stressful or full of suffering. And, a core concept believed by Buddhists is that attachment to ideals is what causes stress and/or suffering more often than not. It isn’t hard to see the truth in this belief because a look at our own lives shows us how, when our ideals are not met or are in danger of not being met, stress is accumulated.

Think about it: it would be ideal to always be on time to everything. But with a little life experience, we know that never being tardy to anything is just not possible. We are all human, and some time or another we each inevitably find ourselves creating or stumbling into situations that make us late. Whenever the ideal of promptness is in danger of not being met or has not been met, we feel stress.

So, a key to finding relief from stress is to detach from these ideals, meaning to learn how to be okay with whatever life brings you.

Does this mean we shouldn’t have ideals and strive for them? Should we not strive to be on time? No, instead, detaching means to mindfully notice you are attached to an ideal and then to loosen that attachment so you can make room in your mind for gratefulness for the present moment.

For example, if something happens in your life that causes you to be late (whether you had control over it or not), instead of reacting to the stress this causes by becoming upset, learn how to notice what happened, notice the stress, then accept the imperfectness of the situation. Next, see if you can live more fully in the present by looking around for blessings that are around you right now. If your spouse or child was the cause of your lateness, look at him or her in the present moment of being late and see what you can be grateful for. Maybe your daughter spilled milk on the carpet. Can you still allow yourself to feel grateful for this imperfect moment and imperfect person?

As you begin to practice this mindfulness, you will start to see stress less and less as a negative thing and instead as a helpful warning sign to you. Then, you will develop a more positive relationship with stress and be able to use it to your advantage rather than letting it crush you into discouragement, anxiety, anger and/or depression. When stress occurs, you will realize it is telling you that perhaps you are too attached to an ideal.

Then, after loosening our grips on our ideals, we can leave ourselves open to be present to what is. In other words, we can be more accepting of less-than-ideal people, situations, and scenarios.* And when we accept life and people are not perfect and that is okay, we find we too are okay.

*Note: this doesn’t mean allowing abuse or unhealthy behaviors to continue. Such scenarios should always be stopped, and healing and recovery should always be sought.

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