“People are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.” — Epictetus

I work from home, and while I love the freedom it brings, it can also be a lonely endeavor. Until three years ago, I worked with and around others which brought a sense of camaraderie and connection, even if it was sometimes on a superficial level. But working at home can be a bit isolating at times and I begin to feel a little stressed. So I left that feeling behind today and went to a coffee shop to work.

And doing that made me think about the stuff we can leave behind. Things like stress, worry, and anger and getting upset over things that are beyond our control.

Because if you really think about it, most of it IS beyond our control.

Many of us let the stresses of daily life build up until we either crash or end up taking it out on those around us. We let our anxiety and anger manifest into unhealthy habits and continue in this cycle until we become unhealthy ourselves. Given that stress can lead to all kinds of health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, and changes in mood and behavior, allowing it to continue unchecked can be a silent killer.

When I was going through my divorce years ago, my stress presented as chest pains making me believe I was having heart problems. When I stayed too long in a career I hated, stress led to increased anxiety and to a feeling of hopelessness. And those feelings stayed with me until I better learned how to manage them.

Until I learned how to leave that stress and anxiety behind.

The Statistics

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2014 report on stress, 77% of people in the United States regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, and 73% experience psychological symptoms. A third of people surveyed felt they are living with extreme stress.

The report cites money and work as the two most common factors causing stress, and becoming irritable/angry and nervous/anxious were the most common symptoms.

Women reported higher overall feelings of stress, and a higher percentage (51% women to 32% of men) have lain awake at night due to that stress. Women are more likely to change their eating habits and also reported higher levels of loneliness and isolation.

Millennials and Gen-Xers report the highest levels of stress compared to older generations with millennials being the most likely to report their stress has increased over the past year.

What all this tells me is stress is a major factor in all our lives and something which all of us can expect at one time or another. But what it also tells me is we are horrible at dealing with that stress. We are drowning with no life preserver in sight.

“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.” ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The Answer?

There are all kinds of articles (including this), and all types of advice out there for dealing with stress. You can exercise, you can meditate, you can count to 10. You can avoid certain triggers which may bring you stress and you can have a healthy balance of activities which counteracts the stress you feel. All of those can help according to your situation. But here is the thing I found which helped me the most:


— You can choose to continue to live and deal with the stress you are experiencing.

— You can choose to learn how to change how you react or perceive events in your everyday life which bring you stress.

— Or you can choose to change your situation completely.

But for me, it is all about choice.

Today, I left behind that stress at my house and went to the coffee shop. I changed my environment for a few hours and it relaxed me. But the most important this is I also chose to change my environment in life.

I left behind a job that brought me security and a steady paycheck because of all the stress it was bringing me.

I left behind all my negativity and the stress that came along with it and changed my mindset to one of love and kindness.

I left behind people and habits which caused me stress and held me back from a life I wanted to live.

I left behind my toxic self and the stress I created to make room for a more improved version. A better me.

And I’m leaving behind all my other stresses and worries by choosing to embrace things which bring me joy.

I left all those things behind so I could move forward.

So my question to you is:

What can YOU choose to leave behind today?

Jeff Barton is a writer, ultra-runner, lover of books and zombies, a practitioner of positive thinking, and most importantly, a dad. Living and loving life one day at a time. You can find him at jeffthewriter.com and jefftherunner.com.

Image courtesy of Aziz Acharki.