“Oh, don’t stress out about it,” your best friend says. “It has nothing to do with you.”

She’s right: stress is you taking things personally that have little-to-nothing to do with you.

Stress Begins in Your Mind

Things happen to you without your consent. Your phone’s battery died. Your baby wet you just as you’re going out. Your department is downsized. Your ski fell off. You’re outbid by a penny. Your mom’s car is rear-ended. All these happened without you agreeing to them.

Some stresses are little ones: the wet dress, the dead phone, and being outbid. These are inconveniences, nothing more. Some are much bigger: being unemployed or Mom getting hurt. These are Now what do I do? situations.

Being stressed propels you toward solutions. Remaining stressed, however, regardless of the situation, is a choice. (I’m not talking shock here, as when someone dies unexpectedly. Or extremes like starvation, disease, or war.) Doing or not doing is a choice. And choice begins in the mind.

What to Do When You’re Stressed

What is stress? It’s a shortened form of “distress.” It’s the disconnect between what you expected to happen and what actually happens. It’s short-term, unless you dwell on it. Unfortunately, too many people today choose to dwell on the thing that didn’t happen instead of doing something about it. As a result, they’re stressed.

So, what do you need to do to de-stress? Use your head – and your body – to de-stress. The first thing (using your head) isn’t the easiest to do, but it is the most important: don’t take it personally.

Even when you get fired, don’t take it to heart. It was your boss’s choice to fire you. He’s looking out for his business. He decided that you didn’t fit into what he needs to run his business. He may even dislike you. But, those are all his choices. Don’t take it personally because it has nothing to do with you; it’s all him.

Then, go into the physical means of de-stressing.

Physical Actions to De-Stress

Stress is often beat back by physical action. These actions can be big or little. Do something for you. Your choices to do are personal, even if the situational stress isn’t.

Try any one or several during the day:

• Go for a long walk or drive
• Read fiction
• Take a long soak in the tub
• Exercise
• Volunteer where you feel useful
• Talk to the person who can do something about the situation
• Cry (yes, even you men)
• Hug your family
• Drink a cup of tea or hot cocoa

Your turn: do something that’s different than your situation to give your mind (and body) a rest from whatever is stressing you

See how much better you feel?

At The End of The Day

When it’s time for bed, when your body is demanding that you lie down and close your eyes, do so. It’s the best de-stressing action you can take by nightfall. Sleeping puts closure on the day. It allows your mind to work out the next steps – uninterrupted by more input – to alleviating stress.

And remember, whatever happens to you isn’t personal. It might feel like it. But, if it’s a person (or even nature) doing something to you, it’s all them. What you choose to do about it is all you. Choose wisely; choose not to stress about it.