I stepped out the door of my Manhattan advertising agency onto a swarming Madison Avenue.

It was late and the sky had already been dark for several hours. I wanted to let out a long sigh to help alleviate the stress I felt from another crazy day at the office, but my lungs were too tight and suffocating to breath properly.

As I walked to the subway to take a crowded F train back to Brooklyn so I could grab a few beers, and hopefully a few hours of sleeping, before doing it all over again the next day (it was only Monday after all), I passed a yoga studio. There was a poster on the door promoting an event happening that night. “Find Your Inner Calm,” read the giant script typeface.

I rolled my eyes and kept walking. “That’s not realistic,” I said to myself. “I’m way too busy to be calm.”

We live in a culture that glorifies stress. In our work-obsessed society, many people take pride in their busyness and wear stress as a badge of honor. I’m also guilty.

Especially in competitive places like New York City, high levels of stress seem to come with the territory. “I’m stressed because I’m very important,” the Ego says. “If I let my guard down, someone will get ahead of me.”

When life itself is a battle, being calm is a sign of weakness.

This, of course, is a lie.

how-replace-stress-inner-peace-finerminds

Stress has no benefit. We often think that being stressed will help us perform better, but the opposite is true.

Working stressed is like an athlete playing hurt. You are less effective at every aspect of the game, both physically and mentally. The truth about stress is that it clouds our judgment and causes us to make mistakes.

Can we succeed without getting stressed out? Can we accomplish important tasks while maintaining peace of mind? The Ego says no. But the truth is yes, absolutely.

Not only can we accomplish more with a peaceful mind, but our success will be more meaningful and sustainable.

“I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Stress is a virus. It spreads from person to person like a contagious thought pattern. When you walk into a stressful environment, like an anxious office or dysfunctional home, its hard to stay immune from the virus. Our mental health is determined by our focus. In the case of fighting stress, a stubborn focus on your own inner peace is your antibiotics.

True peace of mind is independent of circumstances. It does not result from a perfect environment. It is a choice made prior to, and in spite of, external circumstances.

Thoughts are fragile things. When you encounter stressful people and environments, it’s important to protect your thoughts from the virus of stress. It’s a matter of focus.

When you focus on the stress of others, you become infected with the virus.

But when you focus on your own inner peace, you give the world a gift.

The gift of stubborn, unwavering peace, achieved through focused attention on your own inner calm, has the power to transform stress, not only in your life, but in the lives of those around you.

“Life is a struggle,” our Ego says. “Everywhere I look, I’m facing stress. I am stressed because I live and work in a stressful environment. I don’t have time to be calm.”

“Peace of mind is a choice,” our Higher Self says.

“When work is crazy, I can still choose peace. When people around me are freaking out, I can choose to become infected and spread the virus of stress, or instead find peace within myself and share it with the world. My environment does not decide my mental health. My focus decides.

“Reality is a mirror. Because my reality is a reflection of my thoughts and beliefs, the sustained state of my mental health will, over time, decide my environment. In other words, we get back the stress we project. We also get back the peace we project. Choose wisely.”

Guide to Inspired Life