Finding Inner Peace in a Stress Filled World – Part 1 – External Stress

We live in a stress filled world.  Some of that stress is internally imposed.  Some of it comes from the world around us and is externally imposed.  In this blog I will discuss those external stressors.  In my next blog I will discuss the internal stressors.

Inner peace does not deny the realities that surround us.  It just insulates us from being consumed by them.

We each experience a variety of external stressors.  There are the common every-day variety ones.  Then there are stressors that come from unanticipated events.  Furthermore, there are the long-term stressors that seem to live with us in perpetuity.

Common Stressors

These are those irritating things that we encounter on a daily basis.

  • The guy who flips you off on the freeway
  • Your teenager who is a good kid but mouths off for no apparent reason
  • Your boss who is nit-picking a project

These are all things that cause an adrenaline rush in the moment, and in that moment we feel irritated and stressed.  These feelings are often accompanied with feelings of disrespect. 

If we are willing to just step back and take a deep breath, we recognize that a year from now, a month from now, a week from now, a day from now and perhaps even an hour from now they will be irrelevant.  It really is a matter of just learning to let them go. 

It will start with a conversation with yourself as you recognize they are not worth the emotional energy you are investing in them.  The emotional price you are paying with your response is not worth their impact on your life.  Shrug your shoulders and move on.

Event Based Stressors

In many instances these are things that are beyond our control.  They may impact large segments of society or be personal to us and to our family.  These include things like

  • Hurricane Katrina that devastated the gulf coast in 2005
  • Covid 19 in 2020
  • The death of a beloved family member

This list could go on.  The first two are examples of things that impact large segments of society.  In these instances, to first step is to recognize that it is not personal.  There are hundreds and thousands of others surrounding us surrounding us who are dealing with the same issues and stresses we are. 

One of the stresses in these situations is that thousands of individuals are vying for support from overwhelmed service providers.   In 2005 we saw this with thousands sheltering in the Superdome in New Orleans.  They struggled with inadequate resources because community resources were overwhelmed by the unexpected. 

In 2020 with COVID 19 we saw this same frustration with the healthcare system in NYC and elsewhere.  The need outstripped the available resources.  Being patient in these situations,, especially when it may be a matter of life and death, is challenging.  

Ironically the single biggest stress reducer is looking around at others who are suffering and seeing how you can serve them.  It may be something as simple as holding a baby while an overwhelmed mother tends to the needs of her other children. 

When your focus turns outward it is as if your internal stress diminishes.  Nothing has changed except your focus, but in that process your attention is diverted from yourself.  That brings a temporary respite from what you are dealing with, regardless of how overwhelming it feels.

If it is personal, like the death of a beloved family member, understand that there are immediate things that may need to be dealt with as well as other more open-ended issues that will require your attention.

For example, perhaps your father has just died and making the necessary arrangements has become your responsibility.  In most instances these decisions can be made quickly.  If you have been in a position to anticipate what would be needed that will be helpful.  Once these decisions are made, that will lift an immediate source of stress.  If a friend or other family member is available to provide temporary support that may be helpful.

The need to grieve is a whole different matter.  Everyone grieves differently to a different timetable.  Give yourself permission to do it your way and on your timetable.  It just does not give you permission to live there in perpetuity.  I have a friend whose husband died 17 years ago.  Every paragraph begins with ‘If only George hadn’t died then…..”.

Relinquishing the self judgement about what you should do or you should feel reduces the stress level.  Expecting others to honor your boundaries in this respect will also reduce your stress level.

Each of the examples above, or the similar things you have experienced, may have a long-term impact, but in this category everything begins with a single event.

Long Term Stressors

These are varied and include such things as

  • Chronic illness or disability
  • Ongoing abuse or domestic violence
  • Racism

Stress from these types of situations are both internally imposed and externally imposed.  We’ll talk about the internally imposed one’s next week.  Externally imposed stress often comes from comments like

  • Get over it
  • It’s not that big of a deal
  • Do something or quit whining

What these comments all have in common is that they diminish us and our circumstances.  No one wants to be subjected to an endless pity party as we lament the circumstances we are dealing with, however that does not mean we don’t deserve courtesy and respect. 

When we fail to set appropriate boundaries and allow ourselves to be judged by others the resulting stress can be debilitating.

Finding stress relieving activities that work for us is one of the keys to prepare us to achieve inner peace regardless of what may be swirling around us.

About Inner Peace

When we accept responsibility for our attitude and our response to our circumstances, even when those circumstances are beyond our control, we take the first step towards having inner peace. 

I believe in the power of motivational moments to assist us on this journey.  The link below will take you to a few.  I think the one from Burton Hills is particularly relevant to this discussion.  Which one resonates with you? 


The Serenity Prayer, which is a foundational piece of Alcoholics Anonymous, states “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”   This speaks powerfully to this principle.

The second step to inner peace is to make the choice to be a happy contributing member of society.  Inner peace is a bi-product of joyful contribution. 

More on this subject next week but in the meantime share your thoughts with me at


The Serenity Prayer