The Joy of Letting Go of Stress

By Leo Babauta

The holiday season can generally be one of the most stressful times of year. That’s on top of most families being so stressed they aren’t able to spend quality time together.

Is stress building up in you? Is it lowering the quality of your life a bit?

Try this right now: pause in your busy day for a moment to notice how you feel. Is your jaw clenched, your shoulders tight, your body tensed? Do you notice a part of your body that is feeling tension around something you’re worried about or feeling anxiety about? Is there a part of your mind that’s feeling the same kind of tension?

Most of us have stress throughout the day in some form, whether we realize it or not. The good news is that we can let go of it.

What You’re Struggling With

Why do we get stressed out, feel anxiety, feel overwhelmed or out of control?

It’s because the world isn’t the perfect, calm, orderly, simple place we’d like it to be. We want things to be comfortable, nice, pretty and ordered. Unfortunately, work is hectic, people demand our attention, we aren’t as disciplined as we’d like, people do things that frustrate us, and there’s just too much to do and read and learn and process.

The problem isn’t the world, or other people … these will always be messy, disordered, unideal.

The problem is that we are holding onto what we want everyone else to be, what we want ourselves to be, what we’d like our work and families and life to be.

Our attachment to these ideals is causing our struggles. Our reluctance to accept the way things are is causing our struggles.

And we don’t want to feel these struggles, so we try to avoid thinking about them with distraction.

But there’s good news! We can relax the struggling, and find the joy of the reality in front of us.

The Joy of Letting Go

I’m going to give you a practice for whenever you feel stress, anxiety, frustration, or other kinds of struggle.

Notice the feeling. Bring it into your field of awareness.

Turn to it, welcome it. Smile and be kind to the feeling, giving it your full gentle attention.

Notice how it feels in your body. Where is the feeling located, what quality does it have?

Notice the tension in your body around it, and the tension in your mind, as you don’t want to have this feeling.

Try relaxing this tense part of your body. Then relax the tense part of your mind around the feeling.

In this more relaxed place, open up some space, like a wide open field, inside your mind and body.

In this space, allow yourself to see the basic goodness in yourself, that’s there in every moment.

In this space, allow yourself to see the basic goodness of this very moment, always available to us if we’re willing to see it.

Find the joy of the rediscovery of this goodness in yourself and this moment.

This is the practice of letting go of the struggle, and accepting this moment as it is, and yourself as you are.

You can do this in every moment. You can practice with seeing the goodness in others as well. Seeing the goodness in our struggles and complicated relationships and busy-ness.

We can uncover the joy and love that’s always there.