Traffic. Crow's feet. The weather. A bad hair day.
There's a seemingly interminable list of little stressors that are out of our control. One thing we can control? Our reaction to them.
The decision not to pace over the inevitable is one worth making. Less stress means more time to take pleasure in all that brings you joy. You'll be doing your health a favor, too, since stress can affect our health in ways that are just plain scary: Chronic stress has been associated with increased risk for cancer, heart disease and obesity.
In the spirit of choosing not to stress (and in honor of April being National Stress Awareness Month) we asked health and wellness experts to tell us one thing they've decided to stop stressing over this year. These are the folks who have made careers researching, dissecting and developing methods to manage stress in one way or another. Check out their answers in the slideshow, then let us know in the comments: What stressors have you let go of recently?
"Success. I dot all the Is and cross the Ts and at that point I give it to God. I have faith in myself, my actions, my value and then I trust that what will be is meant to be." -- <a href="http://www.jillianmichaels.com/fit/maximize-your-life-tour" target="_blank">Jillian Michaels</a>, health and wellness expert, trainer for "The Biggest Loser"
"This year, I've decided not to stress about approval. Now, I care deeply about earning the approval of those I love and respect. But over the years I've learned -- through my own experience, and through countless conversations with other women -- that the blind quest for approval (of men, of co-workers, of the world) can be unfulfilling and even damaging. It's not by striving for approval, but by staying true to our values and what really matters to us that we can live the lives we really want, instead of the lives we settle for." -- Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post
"Traffic used to drive me nuts! When my carefully crafted schedule was disrupted by gridlock completely out of my control I felt helpless and frustrated. Until one day when I realized that these moments are actually opportunities to deepen my mindfulness practice. The act of accepting whatever arises with grace and gratitude is challenging but -- I’ve learned -- very rewarding. Now I consider traffic a cue to nurture myself. I let go of worrying about being late and just breathe. Often these few moments of calm are exactly what I need. "Find the traffic meditation I practice from <a href="http://www.savorthebook.com" target="_blank">Savor: Mindful Eating Mindful Life</a>, below." <blockquote>Breathing in, I follow my in-breath. Breathing out, I follow my out-breath. Breathing in, I know everyone is trying to get somewhere. Breathing out, I wish everyone a peaceful, safe journey. Breathing in, I go back to the island of calm in myself. Breathing out, I feel refreshed.</blockquote> -- <a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/lilian-cheung/" target="_blank">Lillian Cheung, D.Sc., R.D.</a>, editorial director, <a href="http://www.thenutritionsource.org" target="_blank">The Nutrition Source</a>
"I've decided not to stress about ... down time. I am trying to embrace a 'work hard, play hard' mentality, after years of mostly just ... work hard. "To whit, I am spending time in the saddle -- with my much-loved horse, Troubadour -- and doing things like Heli-skiing in Haines, Alaska (as pictured). "I have gone a stretch of several years with not more than one day of work off a year (Thanksgiving Day, usually). I don't advise it! "So, I've earned some occasional down time, and am committed to get it -- and not stress about it!" -- <a href="http://www.davidkatzmd.com/" target="_blank">David Katz, M.D.</a>, director, <a href="http://www.yalegriffinprc.org/" target="_blank">Yale University Prevention Research Center</a>
"One thing I've decided not to stress about this year is being perfect. Over the past year I've seen how my body suffers when I criticize myself, and I'm ready to let that go and begin to care for myself even in the smallest moments of a day." -- <a href="http://elenabrower.com/" target="_blank">Elena Brower</a>, founder and co-owner of <a href="http://virayoga.com/" target="_blank">VIRAYOGA</a>, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Art-Attention-Book-Erica-Jago/dp/0615664369" target="_blank">Art of Attention</a>"
"I'm not going to stress about 'bad days.' On the road to progress, in all relationships and realities worth fighting for, we have bad days. The stress we feel is because we care and some days we care so much we melt down. The world is moving fast. The people around us move fast. Our minds move so fast. Some days, we need to melt down. On those days, I will simply notice what has caused me to feel overwhelmed, learn that day's lesson, and love the bad days too." -- Jon Wortmann, author of, "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Hijacked-Your-Brain-Yourself-Stress/dp/1402273282/ref=la_B002IAU0HS_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1364848530&sr=1-2" target="_blank">Hijacked By Your Brain: How to Free Yourself When Stress Takes Over</a>"
Being Out Of Contact
"Being out of contact. My family used to say I'd be the first person to have my cell phone surgically implanted in my head! Not anymore. I've decided to establish digital boundaries and switch my phone off and be OK with being unreachable. It's made a huge difference to the quality of my work and no-one's died -- yet!." -- Gemini Adams, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Facebook-Diet-Addiction-Unplug-Digital/dp/095546563X/ref=la_B002MBO9QG_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1364848856&sr=1-5" target="_blank">The Facebook Diet</a>"
"One thing I've decided not to stress about this year is other people getting stressed. As a physician and teacher at a medical school, I have patients, research assistants, students and other mentees, not to mention my colleagues that I work with on a daily basis -- and what can be a pretty stressful environment. When someone comes in with a problem, or is stressed about something, my natural tendency is to want to help -- to help make their stress go away. But I can get stressed trying to help (especially if there is no easy solution, which often there isn't)! Obviously, when the stress in the room goes up, I'm going to be less helpful, and they are going to feel less helped. So, I'm practicing just noticing that feeling of stress as it comes on so I don't feed it, and so I don't get stressed about others getting stressed." -- Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D, medical director of <a href="www.ytnc.yale.edu" target="_blank">Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic</a>
"This is not a new decision, but I don't stress about aging. To the contrary, I've known many wonderful people who, through no fault of their own, never got the change to explore life after age 70. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have the opportunity." -- Andrew Weil, M.D., founder of the <a href="http://www.integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/" target="_blank">Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine</a>, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/True-Food-Seasonal-Sustainable-Simple/dp/0316129410" target="_blank">TRUE FOOD: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure</a>"
"Worrying what I will be when I grow up. I realized that I will never grow up, that life is a journey not a destination and I want to just enjoy the ride every day!" -- <a href="www.drhyman.com" target="_blank">Mark Hyman, M.D.</a>, founder and medical director of <a href="http://www.ultrawellnesscenter.com/" target="_blank">The UltraWellness Center</a>
"Being on social media more. I've been 'shoulding' on myself for years that I should be way more active on social media, have more followers, post more, etc. -- especially as an author/life coach/speaker. Don't get me wrong, I do love the power of social media and connecting virtually with people all over the world. But when I'm out and about, I don't want to have my face in my phone. I enjoy talking to the checkout gal at Whole Foods more than I do tweeting out a catchy phrase. I am not in the habit of capturing every moment with my phone and sharing it with the world. So I will continue to Tweet and Facebook when I feel inspired to do so and stop stressing about needing to do it more." -- <a href="http://www.christinehassler.com/" target="_blank">Christine Hassler</a>, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/20-Something-Manifesto-Quarter-Lifers-Speak/dp/1577315952/ref=la_B001JRUUI0_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364850293&sr=1-1" target="_blank">20 Something Manifesto: Quarter-Lifers Speak Out About Who They Are, What They Want, and How to Get It</a>"
A Quick Fix
"My problems! I now see all difficulty and struggle as opportunity to find innovative solutions, and to grow as a person. This perspective is much less stressful. As a recovering perfectionist, this new perspective on things reduces my anxiety 100 times over." -- <a href="http://www.christinecarter.com/" target="_blank">Dr. Christine Carter</a>, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Happiness-Simple-Happier-Parents/dp/0345515625/ref=la_B002Y4NAW0_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364850698&sr=1-1" target="_blank">Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents</a>"
"I embraced the wisdom of uncertainty a long time ago. And I do not stress about anything. I have learned to live, breathe and move in the unknown." -- <a href="www.deepakchopra.com" target="_blank">Deepak Chopra, M.D.</a>, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Solutions-Answers-Greatest-Challenges/dp/0307719170/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361917343&sr=1-5&keywords=deepak%20chopra&tag=vglnkc7202-20" target="_blank">Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life's Greatest Challenges</a>"
"I rarely, if ever, get stressed about anything big. But on occasion the inconsequential may take hold of my mind and make something much larger than it is. When I get my hair cut my demeanor suggests a belief that something dire will happen if the cut is wrong and moreover I will have to endure the look for the entire foreseeable future. "My last hair cut was not great and I survived. Recognizing this, my next one will feel even better regardless how I look. And, most important, it may actually be great. When we realize we can't predict, stress that relies on believing a negative event will occur naturally diminishes." -- <a href="http://www.ellenlanger.com/" target="_blank">Ellen Langer, Ph.D.</a>, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Merloyd-Lawrence-Ellen-Langer/dp/0201523418" target="_blank">Mindfulness</a>"
"This year I have decided not to stress about finding love. When the time is right and I am ready, it will find me! " --<a href="http://www.bodybysimonetv.com" target="_blank">Simone De La Rue</a>, fitness expert, founder of 'Body By Simon'
"I've given up worrying how well I match up as a man. I'm enough." -- <a href="http://www.whymenfakeit.com" target="_blank">Dr. Abraham Morgentaler,</a> founder of Men's Health Boston, associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School
"The volume of my hair! For my entire life my hair has been so different, so much bigger, curlier and wilder than anyone I know that I have struggled with controlling it. As a professional and on TV a lot, I tried to subdue it to present myself as someone who has a handle on things, to make my outside match my inside. It has been a losing battle, and I have decided to stop stressing and start embracing my wild hair … 'cause actually I am a little unruly on the inside and because I‘d rather happily rock this mane than stress out unsuccessfully holding it down." -- <a href="http://www.drgailsaltz.com" target="_blank">Dr. Gail Saltz</a>, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst
"I decided to worry less about whether something goes as I had planned. Supposedly, I know from my research that there is no point becoming stressed about events that you cannot control and instead you should try to help yourself feel better in those situations. However, I decided that I would practice what I preach. Things happen, and once they have, you can't change the outcome. The best way to handle that stress is to change your emotions. Of course, when you can address the cause of the stress, then it's more adaptive to try to change the situation. If that doesn't work, learn from the experience, and move on." -- <a href="http://www.psych.umass.edu/people/susanwhitbourne" target="_blank">Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.</a>, professor of psychology and director, Office of National Scholarship Advisement, University of Massachusetts Amherst
"I'm going to stop worrying about whether I should have done better. I'm a professional, a wife and a mother of three young kids. And I tend to have high expectations of myself, which makes it easy to get sucked into questioning myself. It's easy to find myself thinking, "Should I have been more focused with work?", "Should I have volunteered for that Brownie meeting?" or "Should I have reacted better to the most recent sibling squabble?" "This year I'm going to stop stressing over what more I <em>should</em> do and instead allow myself to enjoy what I am accomplishing or simply allow myself to be, without needing to be better." -- <a href="http://www.dbtmind.com/" target="_blank">Christy Matta, M.A.</a>, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Stress-Response-Dialectical-Behavior-Needless/dp/1608821307/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330368338&sr=1-1" target="_blank">The Stress Response</a>"
"This year I'm going to stress less about emails. Sometimes my inbox is overflowing with messages, often from people I don't even know. Keeping it up to date on a daily basis would be a full time job on its own. I figure if it's urgent enough people will call me and, if not, I'll respectfully reply as soon as I get a chance. In the meantime, I'll go for a surf to remind myself that there is a life outside of the inbox." -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-puddicombe/" target="_blank">Andy Puddicombe</a>, co-founder of <a href="http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/" target="_blank">Headspace</a>
"I've decided to not stress about things that are not under my control. I breathe more deeply and remember to 'Let Go and Let God.'" -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-patricia-fitzgerald/" target="_blank">Patricia Fitzgerald</a>, HuffPost Wellness Editor, author of "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0970829906?ie=UTF8&tag=detoxsolution-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0970829906" target="_blank">The Detox Solution: The Missing Link to Radiant Health, Abundant Energy, Ideal Weight, and Peace of Mind</a>"
"I am currently writing a new book on surrender. While writing the book I had no idea what I was signing up for. Since I write what I need to learn, I have been asked to surrender so much, including my condo where I have written all my books, due to unrelenting noise and construction, in exchange for a nomadic lifestyle and a PB box for now. So, in the spirit of surrender and trust, I will not stress on the fact I have no permanent home and I must leave my rental in the Venice Canals, Calif., in a month -- quite a challenger for a nester and someone on a book deadline!" -- <a href="www.drjudithorloff.com" target="_blank">Judith Orloff</a>, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA
"The one thing I am not stressing about any more is: Not being perfect. "Yup, not being perfect is something I’ve dealt with all my life. From birth I was deemed not perfect because I was a girl. Only boys are desirable, so being a girl immediately made me less than fully acceptable. This can obviously be a heavy responsibility to carry -- one can never be perfect -- there are always ways to improve and many things to fall short on or fail at. The drive to succeed, be outstanding at everything has its good points but it can also wreak a person’s mental and physical health and relationships. "Resolving not to be perfect is an ongoing commitment for me. It is like a invasive weed that seems to defy elimination, it keeps showing up again no matter what I do to rid myself of it. My solution now is to embrace the nagging thoughts and concern about perfection. Laugh at them when they buzz in my head again and say, well, I’m not perfect and that’s ok, in fact it’s good -- I can learn and improve! Or even just enjoy whatever it is at the level of competency that I have, no need to change. This releases the stress of needing to be perfect and allows for me to laugh gently at myself and tackle whatever is at hand with more compassion and enthusiasm." -- <a href="http://www.marilyntam.com/" target="_blank">Marilyn Tam</a>, author of "<a href="http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118493168.html" target="_blank">The Happiness Choice: The Five Decisions That Will Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be</a>"
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