#16 Downgrade Stress, Upgrade Your Joy, Maintain Your Peace

‘Tis the season to be jolly! If that’s true, why do so many of us get more stressed out during Christmas than joyful, and more agitated than peaceful? We pressure ourselves by overestimating the needs of others and thinking we have too much to do. This can be a habit we keep all year long causing us to have more stress and anxiety than peace and joy. Keep reading to learn how to downgrade stress, upgrade your joy, and maintain your peace.

Stress is Easy to Come By

First off, you don’t have to leave your house to feel agitated and anxious. The sound of your alarm clock can be disturbing. And, listening to or seeing any sort of news and social media certainly gets your natural juices flowing.

This time of year, we are even more stimulated. Besides additional activities (parties, parades, concerts, and plays) thrown into our everyday schedules, we are plagued by ads that tell us what we should buy and that we better hurry and buy it. In other words, marketing people tell us what we need and how long we have to get it. We don’t notice the impact of their pressure because they do it so festively and under the guise of encouraging us to be generous in love, kindness, and giving.

We Know What We Need

A need is something essential for our existence. When you tell someone what he/she needs, e.g., “You need to…,” you immediately convey a sense of urgency. And, you’re telling the person you know more about what he needs to exist than he does. The receiver of your directive gets the message that you have power over his existence. Feeling overpowered, he will defend himself against your dominance by rebelling and not accept your directive. You end up creating more stress for yourself and others.

When you tell yourself what you need, you also stimulate a sense of urgency within yourself. Therefore, if you don’t get what you need right away, you might get upset with others.  This also causes stress.

You Have to… or Else

When you say “I need to…” or “You need to…,” you elevate the situation to a crisis. You’re indicating something must be done immediately and the options are to do or die.

Parents are notorious for using this type of strategy. For example, when I was a young girl, my mom asked me to do the dishes. I didn’t want to, so I put it off. Her request became a demand. But, still thinking it was negotiable, I procrastinated. Soon, her demand turned into a command as she ordered, “[You have/need to] Do these dishes… or else.”

Even though I didn’t know what the “or else” was, I knew it was worse than doing the dishes. So, I opted for the lesser of the two evils. This strategy achieves results, but the real benefit is for the commander to get what he/she wants. It makes us believe there are only two solutions to a “have to” problem and that neither one of our options is good for us. An aside — I cannot deny that I used this strategy at times with my own children.

There is no Satisfaction When You Feel Like You Have to do Something

When we have to do something, we give ourselves two options – do it or suffer something worse. So, when we do what we have to, we go for the least painful option. This is merely pain relief and a survival option instead of an accomplishment that gives us satisfaction and joy.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, “Have to is used to say that something is required or necessary.” Anything we have to do results in an outcome. If we do what we have to do, we fulfill a requirement. If we don’t, there is an undesirable consequence (an “or else”). We all know this, yet there are times we don’t do what is required or necessary and there are times we do what isn’t required or necessary.

What We Value Determines What We Have to do

We determine what is required or necessary based on what we value. Our society continues to create laws based on how it values its members. But, before man created his own laws, God gave us ten rules to follow so we could live well and be stress-free. Then, out of love for us and not because He had to, God gifted us with His son, who rolled the ten rules into one – love one another as He has loved us. (John 13:34) These are God’s values and the requirements we have to fulfill if we want our final outcome to be a good one.

God loves us so much that He also gave us the freedom to make choices. We don’t have to do the love one another thing. In truth, we don’t have to do anything. We don’t even have to eat if we don’t want to. However, we know we need food in order to exist so we have to eat.

We create the requirements we have to fulfill based on what we value and what we want. When you say you “have to” or “need to” do something, you might do it because it’s something you value, but you’ll still feel like it’s a matter of life or death because your subconscious mind interprets “have/need to” to mean it is compulsory for you to fulfill the requirement. This creates stress. Until you get your subconscious mind to agree with what your conscious mind says you value, you will continue to feel stressed when you have to do something.

Get Your Subconscious in Agreement With Your Conscious

You don’t think about it, but every time you say, “I need…” or “I have to…,” you set yourself up to feel like you have an urgent (life or death) situation. Remember your subconscious mind! Unbeknownst to you, when you say “need” and “have to,” it interprets the information as something crucial for your existence, so it sets off your alarm system and makes you feel anxious about getting what you need.

To get your subconscious mind in agreement with your conscious requirements, you must remind yourself that you are choosing to do what you’re doing because of what you value. Let’s look at Christmas for example. You are not required by any kind of force to buy Christmas gifts, bake cookies, or host parties. If you do these things, you are choosing to do them because you value others, value giving, value baking, value spending time with others, and whatever other value you have.

In truth, you don’t have to get a shower or even pay your taxes. You shower because you value personal hygiene, your appearance, your self-respect, and others. I don’t know anyone who enjoys paying taxes, but most people pay them because they value their country and their freedom.

Begin to get your two minds in sync by thinking of what you have to do in terms of what you value and take a second to communicate that to yourself. When you do this, you remind yourself of your freedom to make choices and recognize more options. You open yourself up to using God’s gift.

Remind Yourself Why You “Need” or “Have to” do Things

Since we like to communicate in an abbreviated fashion, it would be cumbersome to speak our reminder out loud by saying, “I value my children, so I choose to go shopping to buy them Christmas presents.” So, we just say, “I have to go Christmas shopping for the kids” or “I need to go shopping.”

It’s okay to say, “I need…” or “I have to….” But, when you say it, stop a moment and remind yourself that you are choosing to do it because of what you value. Get into the habit of remembering you are the one who created the requirements you choose (have to) to fulfill based on what you value. You will downgrade stress, upgrade your joy, and maintain your peace.

Downgrade Stress, Upgrade Your Joy, Maintain Your Peace: