Secret to Stress Reduction

What if the secret to stress reduction is the elimination of a single phrase from your vocabulary? I have discovered the single phrase that I believe has the most negative impact on your emotional well-being and which is the greatest cause of stress in your life – a single phrase that disempowers you and causes you to feel that you are at the whim of the world. In fact, this often-repeated phrase firmly implants you into victim mode.

Can you feel the stress in your neck and shoulders? Are you experiencing that lack of control that is the norm in your daily life? This phrase is the cause of most of that stress and disempowerment. And it must be eliminated. The phrase is, “I can’t because I have to.”

Consider this long list of ways that you use this phrase every day:

  • I can’t be home for dinner because I have to work late.
  • I can’t come to your baseball game because I have to work.
  • I can’t come to your party because I have to go see my mother.
  • I can’t make lunch because something came up at work.
  • I can’t see you tonight because I have a project to work on.
  • I can’t take a vacation because I don’t have enough money.
  • I can’t go to the beach because I have to cut the grass.
  • I can’t play catch with you because I have to clean the garage.

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. Because I have to. Because I have to. Because I have to. Are you seeing the problem? Are you feeling that stress right now?

In this phrase that you may use every day, you are continually reminding yourself that you can’t do what you want to do because you have to do something else. In other words, this phrase speaks into your mind and heart that you have no control whatsoever and that your entire life is about things that you have to do, not what you want to do. The impact of this disempowerment and victim mentality is real and pervasive.

Hopefully, I don’t need to say any more for you to understand the negative impact that this phrase has had and will have on you, your stress levels and your happiness. Part one of the solution is to eliminate the phrase. Part two of the solution is to reframe it.

Consider this shift in some of the above phrases:

  • I won’t be home for dinner because I’m choosing to work late.
  • I won’t be there for your baseball game because I’m choosing to work.
  • I won’t be coming to your party because I’m choosing to go see my mother.
  • I’m won’t be joining you for lunch because I’m choosing to handle something that came up at work.
  • I’m choosing not to see you tonight because I’m choosing to work on a project.
  • I’m choosing not to take a vacation because I want to wait until I have more money.
  • I’m choosing not go to the beach so I can get the grass cut.
  • I’m choosing not to play catch with you right now so I can finish cleaning up the garage

You may be thinking that these phrases don’t feel any better because you feel bad telling others that you’re choosing something else over them. That’s the point – that’s what you’re already telling them, but without being honest about it. With this shift you are owning your choices and the impact of those choices without making the “I can’t because I have to” excuse. As a result, I’m guessing that you might make some different choices in where, how, when and with whom you invest your precious time.

The shift away from “I can’t because I have to” is a simple shift, and it is not a difficult shift other than having to eliminate your old phrase and replace it with a new phrase. However, there are two challenges, and they may be big challenges.

In order to eliminate this phrase, it’s imperative that you do two things. First, you have to believe and embrace the reality that you always have choices, even if they are difficult choices. Second, you have to be willing to give up the victim role. It’s easier to believe that you don’t have a choice because then you can blame people, situations and circumstances when you don’t get what you want or don’t get to do what you want to do. It’s not your fault. By embracing the choices that you have and shifting your perspective and language to own the choices in every situation, you necessarily have to give up your role as blamer and victim.

There it is: the secret to reducing or perhaps even eliminating your stress; the secret to feeling empowered in every moment and experience. It’s the secret sauce – eliminating “I can’t because I have to” – but you may have noticed something in the last couple of paragraphs. In order to make this shift and have it work in your life, I told you what you “have to do.” You have to embrace your choices. You have to release your victim mentality. But, of course, you don’t have to do anything.

Whether you choose to embrace the shift I’m offering is your choice, and if you choose not to own your choices, then you have only one person left to blame for all the things you cannot do, all the stress you experience, and all the disempowerment you feel. That’s you, but it’s your choice.

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