Understanding and Managing Stress

The 20th Century buzz-word was certainly stress. The beauty of the 21st century is we’ve perfected stress with technology. Because many of us lead such busy fast-paced lives, we don’t even recognize how much chronic stress we’re under.

Life is full of inherent stresses. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. It’s been well documented that stress does nasty things like creating or enhancing physical illness, as well as accelerating the aging process.

To get a handle on the problem, it’s very important to understand where stress comes from. So let’s boil stress down into two basic categories; avoidable and unavoidable.

Unavoidable stress is the product of life circumstances; the unexpected occurs, traffic grinds to a halt, we raise kids, deadlines get moved up, we relocate, workloads increase, a family member dies, life happens, etc., etc., etc. There’s not much we can do about this type of stress. Our only control is how we deal with it. There are all sorts of ways to alleviate such pressures, such as meditation, recreation, exercise, hobbies, talking to friends, dealing with a problem directly, or even some type of therapy.

Avoidable stress is anxiety we can do something about. It’s the product of pain from the past that has been suppressed into the subconscious, usually from some sort of emotional trauma. This type of stress creates repeating patterns of the same stress over and over again. In other words, the circumstances are the same but the cast of characters has changed. Subconscious healing techniques are the most effective way to release these stressful patterns. Those that can help may include energy workers, healers, hypnotherapists or even acupuncturists.

Another contributor to avoidable stress is the product of family, societal, religious or media conditioning. People often feel pressured to be or do something that is completely out of alignment with who they are because they have been taught otherwise by their parents, teachers, peers or TV. This type of stress can be very debilitating because the source is generally not recognized. Sometimes to alleviate this kind of stress you just need to ask yourself the question, "Do I really need to do this?" If the answer is no, then the best cure is to have the courage to make different decisions. We are all born to be and do something specific in this life. Not living your individual self-discovered destiny can produce a very deep and subtle chronic stress.  It’s as if Life just doesn’t seem right.

Managing Stress

The most productive way to take stress head-on is through deep states of relaxation or meditation. It’s very simple and exceptionally effective. However, relaxation, like anything else, is a learned technique and can take on different forms like traditional meditation or something more active like yoga.

The purpose of relaxation and meditation is to be inwardly still by gently breathing, quieting the mind, and experiencing a higher power. Meditation transcends all religions and belief systems, so you don’t have to believe in anything. It’s really about the experience of inner peace. When you meditate regularly, you will start to see shifts in your external world. Stress will begin to naturally reduce. That’s because the subconscious mind is continually projecting what is inside of us out into our physical world. As we become more peaceful on the inside, our external lives will follow that lead.

How to Relax

If you’re thinking, "Ahhhh…relaxation is a tall, cool drink with warm sun on an endless tropical beach"; that’s a nice start but try thinking a little deeper. When I refer to relaxation, I’m talking about going into a trance or meditative state. Believe it or not, this is actually a normal state of mind that everyone enters at least twice a day; right before falling asleep and just before waking up. It’s the half awake/half asleep state of awareness, commonly referred to as the suspended dream state.

However, to gain the full benefits from this natural suspended dream state, we need to develop and utilized it. This is where relaxation becomes a skill. Like many other skills, it’s learned and it takes practice. The deeper you learn to go, the more dynamic and effective your experiences will be. Once the experiences start rolling in, the practice is something to eagerly anticipate and look forward to everyday. It’s settling into a pleasant encounter.

Even though relaxing is a skill, it’s important to mention there’s not much too it. Simply find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie without distraction. No kids, no phones, no noises or interruptions. Put on some soft music or a relaxation CD, listen to nature or just be in silence. If you like, burn a candle, essential oil or incense. Create the mood. Then sit and close your eyes, breathing gently. If your mind wanders, just let it and bring your attention back to your breath. Or you can watch your thoughts drift by like clouds. Next, just let go and drift into the experience. There…you’re relaxing!