Well, another week is upon us and–if you’re anything like me–you’re probably feeling that familiar hint of anxiety that precedes the start of the Monday routine. We’re not alone. In fact, many people suffer from this type of anticipatory anxiety and stress. Thankfully, we have a choice to shift our approach.

How do we go about changing our perception of this stress and anxiety? It’s important to remind ourselves that we experience this particular type of anxiety because it seems almost reasonable and logical. After all, we worry about the things in our lives we can’t see, know, or face directly. The night before a big speech, the instant before opening a gift, the heavy silence in a waiting room, or even the unsettling quiet of a Sunday evening—all share a similarly common psychological origin.

Uncertain of our ability to know the outcome, we feel overwhelmed. The first step in changing this pattern is to actively disregard expectation. That is, it is not so much the event that causes distress, but more so the speculation surrounding it. I know this is easier said than done, but I won’t leave you to go about the task without offering some friendly ideas to get you started on your journey to calm:

1. Let Go of the Story

Expectation is about the stories we tell ourselves. Sometimes we find ourselves building stories around the events in our lives that otherwise would be difficult to understand or rationalize. Storytelling is a valuable skill because it helps create order out the unfamiliar. However, these very same stories can involve unreasonable expectations that set us towards disappointment or anxiety. Today, try to let go of the aspects of your story that you cannot fully know or change yet.

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2. Learn to Embrace Simplicity

Don’t forget to breathe. We hear that advice frequently, and for good reason. It just so happens that now more than ever it’s easy to get caught up in the details and miss the big picture. Identifying stress triggers can help us set clear boundaries that streamline our daily tasks and interactions (i.e., e-mail, networking, commutes, etc.). Be sure to create space to openly communicate your needs, rework the degree to which you give of your time, and concentrate on the beauty of a single moment.

3. Cultivate Your Happiness

As we set out on the path to reduce our stress by bringing attention to triggers, expectations, and our present experience, let us not forget to augment our newly acquired peace of mind with habits that engender joy. Try not to replace anxiety or expectation with yet more anxiety and expectation—I know that seems obvious, but (trust me) it’s worth repeating. Happiness can be a mercurial thing, don’t spend another moment trying to limit it or force it. Explore the absence of unnecessary stress as an opening for new means of satisfaction.

Marc Laughton
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