How to let go of Stress and Anxiety

22 March, 2021

Written by Dawn Bradly

Stresses and anxieties can follow us around for long periods of time and really take a toll on our life. So, how do we let go of the stress and anxiety that may be weighing us down? Well, have you heard the one about the two monks and the woman? It goes like this…

A senior and a junior monk were travelling together when they reached a river which was fast flowing with a strong current. Standing further along was a young woman who was trying to cross but too scared. She asked the monks if they could help her cross.

Much to the astonishment of the younger man, the older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the river, gently placed her down and then carried on his journey with the younger monk.

An hour passed with no conversation between them, and then another hour until the younger monk could contain himself no longer. He cried “How could you do that? As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman, so how could you then carry her on your shoulders to cross the river?!” The older monk looked at him and replied “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”

The Message

The message behind this well-known story is simple, yet elusive for many of us; why carry around past hurts, holding onto resentments, when the only one we are really hurting is ourselves? Ruminating over past actions or events will ultimately weigh us down and sap our energy. Instead, we can choose to let go.

What are the things you are holding onto right now? Write down a list of what doesn’t serve you well and that you can now let go. It doesn’t mean that we are condoning someone else’s behaviour, if that’s what you are holding on to, but instead we are giving ourselves permission to let go and move forward. Once written down, you can rip it up if that feels good to do!

Circles of Influence

Here’s an exercise to help us focus on the things we can do something about, instead of wasting time and energy worrying about concerns that we have no control over.

  • On a piece of paper, write down a specific aspect of life or work that is causing you anxiety or stress.
  • Draw two circles, one inside the other. Title the outer circle ‘Circle of Concern’ and the inner circle ‘Circle of Influence’.
  • What aspects of this anxiety or stress are you concerned about but have no influence over? Write them down in the outer Circle of Concern.
  • As you write them down ask yourself if there is anything you can do, however small, that you can do to influence this concern. If not, then let it go and focus on what you can take action on.
  • In the Circle of Influence write down everything about this anxiety or stress that you can take action on or are already influencing. Now take action.

If there is nothing you can do about the concerns in the Circle of Concern, then we let it go and focus on what we can influence, therefore the less stressed we become. Give this a go to see if there are any stresses or anxieties that are weighing you down – you may be surprised by the toll that some things are taking on you!

This exercise is from Stephen R Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and shows you how to become proactive in dealing with your concerns.

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