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How to End Your Stress and Live a Life of Peace and Balance

Woman Balancing

“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” ~Jill Botte Taylor

I used to be a stress bunny. Something was always driving me to want to do better—to be more, to have more, to compete and win at everything.

I thrived on pushing myself, thinking achievement was a great thing.

I was also restless. I always had to be going somewhere—doing something—never sitting still. I was bored, frustrated, and trying to find happiness outside myself.

One day after I graduated from college, I became totally paralyzed by a rare syndrome and landed in the hospital. The doctors couldn’t tell me when or if I would ever walk again.

I soon understood why I pushed myself so hard. I was running from myself so I didn’t have to face all the inner thoughts that were fueling my stress.

Suddenly I couldn’t even walk away. I still wanted to run, but I was forced to lie there—tortured by my own racing thoughts.

Talk about stress! This frightening experience taught me many valuable life lessons. One of them is that stress has no redeeming value. You can live a much happier, more successful life by transforming your stressful inner thoughts.

Tying Our Emotions to Specific Outcomes Trips Us Up

We’re all striving for certain things in life. Security, love, happiness, purpose, success, and independence are among our top goals, however we define these for ourselves.

We live our lives trying to find happiness. But, as John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.”

Sometimes our disappointments can be extremely jarring, like when I landed in the hospital. Other times life is on a roll, and we become elated. But then things turn, and we’re headed for a crash landing. Life’s ups and downs can be so distressing.

When we feel like we’re being torn apart, we learn to protect ourselves by not getting our hopes up about anything. But then we’re living a life of resignation, which isn’t fulfilling, either.

Tying our emotions to all the ups and downs is like stepping onto a perpetual roller coaster, riding through multiple dips every day. Why live with that kind of stress when a better alternative exists?

How to End Stress and Achieve a Life of Peace and Balance

Wayne Dyer said, “Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”

If that sounds like giving up or giving in, that’s not what Dyer meant. He was referring to the flow of life. We can train ourselves to take advantage of this flow and stay in balance regardless of any temporary elation or dismay.

1. Loosen up on expectations and attachments.

When we expect something great to happen, we begin to set ourselves up for the roller coaster. We’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen, or happy if it does. Pair that with being emotionally attached to the outcome and wham—there’s an even bigger charge. You just stepped onto life’s roller coaster.

If you realize every situation offers growth and opportunity, you can more easily live without expectations. You can feel confident being open to whatever happens, knowing that you can appreciate good events and accept the challenge of things you feel are negative.

Some of us have a general fear that bad things might be just around the corner. Try to detach yourself from fear of what might happen and experience life as it unfolds.

2. Remember, nothing is permanent.

When life is great, we hope it continues forever. When we’re in a dip, we can’t wait until it ends. But nothing is permanent. That’s hard to remember when we’re stuck in a bad situation and hard to accept when life is good.

Reminding yourself that all things must end (and new situations will replace them) is a great way to begin detaching, and maintaining balance no matter what.

Being paralyzed and not knowing what was in store was terrifying. But I faced each day with hope that the paralysis would stop progressing. When it did, my doctor told me I had actually willed it out of myself because nothing he had given me had the power to stop it.

3. Catch yourself when you’re judging and evaluating.

Life just is. It’s easier to relax and meet it with a smile when you can. If you practice living and being in the moment, rather than evaluating how everything is affecting you, events will lose their grip.

Human beings experience physical pain differently than animals do. We exaggerate pain by thinking about how bad it is and how much we don’t want it. But we can get control of our pain by focusing on the actual size of the area it covers and how it truly feels. Observing instead of judging can help us see reality.

The same applies to events we label as bad. Next time, try to take your focus off of feeling bad long enough to assess the reality. Then shift your mind to finding a positive aspect of the experience or thinking about something good that is also happening.

For example, when I was still adjusting to being paralyzed and in the hospital, coworkers and neighbors who I thought were just acquaintances came to see me. I was amazed that so many people I hardly knew cared about what was happening to me. Experiencing this was a great comfort.

4. Use the signs life provides to guide you.

Life is like a flowing river. We can do three things when we jump in: We can go with the natural flow, letting the current carry us forward; we can try to go upstream; or we can hang onto a rock to try to stay put.

If we go with the flow, we’ll be carried along peacefully. If we try to go upstream, we’ll have a real battle on our hands. If we hang onto a rock, we’ll risk being battered against that rock.

Why not take the easy route and go with the flow? This doesn’t mean you can’t shoot for your goals. It means be aware of signs that your chosen path is on or off target. If you’re struggling too hard, try a different approach.

For instance, if you’re beating your head against the wall trying to convince someone to love you and it’s not happening, try finding a different wall with an open door.

5. Find the natural flow of life.

With more practice, you’ll begin to see solid evidence of the flow of life. Experiment to find it so you can really trust and let go.

Maybe you have far too much on your plate for one person to handle, and you always end up completely stressed over not being able to get things done. This is so common today.

Stress further slows your progress as you worry about whether you can ever catch up.

Try stepping back, relaxing, and taking a bigger view. Focus on believing that everything will get done in its own time if you take one step at a time. When you do this, you’ll find that things will fall into place with less effort on your part. You’ll experience the flow of life.

Every day, give yourself a simple list of two important things you want to work on that day. This will ensure that you get to those two important items, which likely isn’t happening if you’re reacting to all the little distractions. Doing so also allows time to handle most of those little items too.

I’ve done this for several years, and I’m amazed at how much more I accomplish, with less stress.

Ending your stress is in your power—what a relief!

I survived my ordeal with paralysis and healed perfectly in a few months. This experience was a wake-up call that taught me to stop stressing so much, appreciate life, and live it to the fullest. To do that, I slowed way down and learned what a gift it is to live in the moment, open to whatever life brings.

Like any major challenge, the experience showed me how strong I can be. This helped me reduce general fears of what might happen in the future.

It was a great reminder that even horrible situations are only temporary, and since I can learn so much from them, it’s better to look for the lessons than to focus on how bad things seem.

Life can’t always be just the way we want it. But if we go with the flow and work with each situation as it is, we will often be surprised that things turn out better than we wanted.

A balanced life that is far less stressful makes everything more enjoyable.

Balancing woman image via Shutterstock

About Jan Tucker

Jan Tucker is an author, speaker, and yogi who helps people transform their lives by returning to basics, finding their inner balance, and living a healthier, less stressful life. She teaches the many “how to live” concepts of the full yoga path. Visit PerfectInnerPeace.com/ebook for a free subscription to her online magazine and the free e-book, “10 Ways to De-stress Your Life Permanently.”

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  • Lisa Miller

    Jan Tucker–what a GREAT article!! I’m actually 6 months into my new Buddhist meditation practice, and working with a mindfulness-focused therapist (who was a Buddhist nun in India, believe it or not!) to help me with my mental health challenges. Everything you said in your article I’ve heard heard my therapist say many times. But I liked the way you explained things, with a little different perspective. Not sure if you’ve heard of DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy),a mindfulness-based therapy (google it, if you haven’t heard of it–I’m sure you’ll find it fascinating and right up your alley), but much of what you said is covered in DBT as well. Ex. radical acceptance, staying present in the here and now, and not judging or evaluating ourselves. I will definitely be sharing this article.

  • Harsh

    great post mam

  • Loh YuenTheng

    I always hear people saying “dont expect too much ” or “lower your expectation so that you wont be disappointed as much when things dont turn out well”..but it s so hard to gauge the level of expectation.If u do not expect at all, life would seem aimless and meaningless, but when you expext too much, you have to bear the stress

  • Hi Loh, Thank you for your comment to help me clarify. Your thoughts are a natural way of interpreting this concept. It’s what I first thought, too, and I don’t want to leave that impression. I like to think of having no expectations as living more like a happy child lives. They go through life just experiencing what comes rather than projecting their desires into the future like we adults tend to do. So having no expectations is more a matter of living spontaneously and adapting to what comes our way. It’s a free feeling of watching what unfolds. I hope that lightens things up a bit! 😉

  • Thanks Harsh!

  • Thank you Lisa, very much appreciated. These thoughts come from Eastern philosophies and there is much commonality among the different points of origin. The thoughts are so insightful and helpful that they have also been picked up in the West and have been incorporated into therapies, religions, self-help content, and more. Now every time I turn around I see another reference to mindfulness. I’m loving it!

    Great ideas spread, and I’m glad they are spreading more and more where we can get easy access to them. Students of these thoughts think of them as truths. We are truth-seekers! I will take a look at DBT for sure. Thanks for the tip.

  • Hi Mike, that attorney’s experience is incredible. Life works in amazing ways, doesn’t it? If we believe everything happens for a reason, it often still leaves us shaking our heads in disbelief. I’m very glad she fell down those stairs.

  • rt

    Fantastic article Jan it resonated with me. I am 55 and am going through a separation on my own. I find that I am “as you state” constantly “judging and evaluating” myself and the situation I am in. I feel that because I am having to rebuild my life from finding a job to a new home without support, I am constantly thinking am I doing enough. The hurt and position I am in does at times overwhelm me. But I do agree that when I try to not place so much focus on so much, it does take the pressure off me. Everyday I try to break down what I need to do in order to get my life together and try to not be so hard on myself. I am trying to learn things take time and I need to be patient and stay strong. That things will eventually work out for me and I will eventually be in a better place. Thank you for your article it helped me be aware of how things can be handled better.

  • Carro

    Fantastic article and a clear sign of what power it is in mindfulness!

  • Hi Carro, Our minds are so much more powerful than we realize on every front. I love that we can learn how to use our minds to improve our lives and to accomplish many things. Thanks for reading!

  • rt, I’m so happy this article came at a good time for you. Based on what you said, you are on the right track. One focused step at a time (as focused as possible). I love that you are evaluating what to do each day. As time progresses, you will see things coming together. Each step forward will give you more confidence.

    Don’t worry about any setbacks. It’s completely normal and expected to have challenges along with your wins. Just stay focused on what is working well and keep at it! You are doing enough (Make a mantra to repeat each time doubt creeps in–“I am doing enough. All my efforts will bring forth an even better life for me going forward.”).

    You will realize your strength through this situation. I’m pulling for you. By the way, one of my close family members just went through the same thing beginning last fall, and I see her strengthening each day.

  • rt

    Thank you so much Jan for your inspirational and supportive words. I am very grateful. You have given me direction and strength and I thank you. And I so love the mantra and will start saying it everyday. Sincerely grateful:)

  • Any time! We’re all in this together, rt! 😉

  • It’s all about surrounding yourself with the right, bubbly, positive people, right?! Xo

  • Releasing expectations and attachment to outcomes is making a huge difference in my life experience. I cannot say enough about how profound this has been.

  • Lucy, it’s so wonderful that you’ve had success with this. Our desires for certain outcomes, circumstances, or acquisitions can only control us when we become attached. Sometimes one has to experiment with this in order to truly understand the concept. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Hi WW, that is part of it, for sure. Ensuring that everything in our outer environment supports our efforts to live a balanced life makes it far easier to stay on the path. Watching less negative news is another example. To sustain the change, we need to embody these principles within ourselves.

  • Liz

    I’m having a really difficult time understanding the concept of lowering expectations and going with the flow. Wouldn’t it be a pointless existence if one simply finds an easier path every time something is too difficult? How can someone accomplish anything if they are always giving up? I am really trying to wrap my head around this idea and I would appreciate any thoughts. Thanks!

  • Hi Liz, Thanks for your question. This concept always causes a lot of thought, partly because our world is very goal-oriented and partly because it’s a bit complex. Pondering is a good thing. And you’re not the first one to question it here.

    It’s not that every time something is too difficult you should give up and find an easier path. You’re right–life is full of challenges and overcoming challenges is part of what we need to do in order to succeed.

    While answering your question I realize I need to write a new article to explain this concept further. Although it’s simple at its core, it’s complex to explain. I will work on that. Please keep your eyes open for my response. I’ll post here when I have something new.

  • SJ21

    By lowering expectations and going with the flow, one should keep doing the work and not expect what the outcome would be and worry about it. If you worry about the outcome, then you are not giving 100% to your task at hand and not going with the flow. It is not changing the path but doing what you are doing without stressed about what will happen if you succeed or not succeed.

  • Please note that I didn’t say, “lowering expectations,” I said “loosen up on your expectations and attachments.” These two things are very different.

    Loosening up means that while you are working toward your goals, be more open to the possibilities life will present. Set your intention and go for it. The possibilities may be better than what you are trying to achieve.

    The only way to experience this is to test it. I tested it by letting go of something big that I wanted. My entire outlook on life changed as a result. You can test it on anything you want!

  • Please note that I didn’t say “don’t expect too much” or “lower your expectations.” I used the words, “loosen up.” There’s a very big difference. I explained it a little further in response to Liz’s question above.

  • This is the article I promised below to help you visualize what I mean by “loosening up and letting go”. http://tinybuddha.com/blog/change-life-feel-like-nothing-going-way/

  • JoAnn Saccato

    Great post, Jan! Thanks for sharing your personal story and how applying what you knew intuitively and intellectually really produced a lasting transformation for your life. When I teach my compassion-based mindfulness courses, learning our deeper calling and setting intention toward that calling is part of the biggest transformation for most of my students (as well as my coaching clients!). When we look at the difference between expectation and intention, I share my personal story of moving to my new home–I set an intention and the basic things I was looking for–in a particular area in my community and to allow easy access for my then aging canine companion. The rest I left up to the divine mystery. My affirmation was: “Thank you for my perfect-for-me home” and my friends affirmed that “I would be completely happy with the outcome.” From there, my focus could then stay on the present moment, knowing I was on my way to this new home, and deepening my connection to situations and circumstances happening around me. If I were moving from a place of expectation, I would have had the specific colors, size, and a long list of the “must haves” narrowing the universal flow’s opportunity to fulfill me–my expectations are limited to what my mind can conjure, whereas intentions allow the divine mystery to do it’s work and surprise me. As well, I wouldn’t have been living my life fully open in the moment but rather looking only to find these particular things–I would have been shut down to the “what is” of the moment. Living in expectation is completely focused on the outcome, whereas intention is living fully in the moment with clear direction. Deepak Chopra defines it well: “An intention is simply a thought impulse
    which gives structure and direction to creative energy. It arises from a
    neutral state of awareness. Expectation is a hope that something will
    happen. It comes from an ego state that is identified or attached to the
    outcome. Using intention allows you to remain detached from the outcome
    and therefore the process of manifestation helps your spiritual
    growth.” Needless to say, my home is far grander than anything my mind had in mind and I’m still humbled on a daily basis, some 4 years later, what an awe-inspiring and perfect-for-me home I enjoy.

  • Thanks for sharing, JoAnn. I have a different twist from popular thought regarding intention and manifesting. Much of what is popularly believed and taught tends to focus on manifesting material things. The yogic approach takes the emphasis away from the material. One day I’ll write about this in the appropriate place.

  • JoAnn Saccato

    I do look forward to reading that, Jan! I understand what you mean about the focus on the material outcome–when I work with students/clients we focus on the essence of the desire…what would they receive if they had what they thought they wanted? In my case with my home, it would be a feeling of safety and ease for my dog in her final days–everything else was a bonus!