“How to never be stressed again”
This is most often used word today.
I am afraid I will not get a promotion.
I don’t know whether my daughter will get the admission in college.
If I go out, I will get Corona Virus.
I can’t find a parking spot.
We can get stressed about absolutely anything. When I held a corporate job, I remember, one day there wasn’t too much work and felt like a very light day, I got stressed. It didn’t feel normal. When we are so used to feeling stressed all the time, there comes a time when there is no stress, we feel stressed about not being stressed. So this dirty little word has become an integral part of our lives.
The key question is why do we feel stressed? There are two reasons for this:
- Desire to get something and we feel apprehensive whether we will get it or not.
- Severance of contact with something we wish to continue to have.
Both these can further be compressed to one word. Attachment. We are too attached to things we hope will give us pleasure. Or we are afraid we might lose things that give us pleasure.
So should one have no attachment? Is it better to detach from desires? Do we just let go and have no source of worry? If we live in this world, of course we are going to have attachments. The trick is ‘Healthy Attachment’.
Healthy attachment is the act of both holding and letting go. We don’t let things control us and our emotions. Allow such events to come and go, cherish them when you have them, and then move on when they leave. But how do you practice this detached attachment?
One of the best ways to lessen if not eliminate stress and disintegrate a stressful situation is to simply to accept it. Accept the environment that surrounds. Accept everything that’s happening. Accept the thoughts and emotions about it. Accept the fact that you are stressed out.
Practicing acceptance works instantaneously to reduce our stress level right at that very minute. Acceptance is often what gears us to the take steps to alter the situation. It puts us into action mode and at the same time works on the negative emotions that accompany the situation.
The stress in our life is not caused by the situation. The real sources of stress are the emotions which that situation is bringing out in us which can essentially be boiled down to fear or anger.
Fear – because we worry about everything that could possibly go wrong and anger at your inability to stop everything from collapsing around you. Buddha says that pain is a part of life, no matter what. Everyone experiences pain. But suffering (stressing), on the other hand, is optional. Suffering and stressing is the result of how we handle pain. We cannot escape pain, but if we accept the situation, the we won’t be pained by it. So, whether we suffer or not, it’s up to us.
Now that we have acknowledged that we are stressed and we are not doing anything about it… well, we can start doing something about it.
The obstruction that comes up when deciding to take action is actually a choice. A choice based on ‘Shreya’ and ‘Preya’. That which is good (Shreya) versus that which is pleasurable (Preya).
We get lured into doing things that give us pleasure right now. In this moment. Playing an online game, watching TV etc is far more pleasurable than this project which has a deadline approaching or getting to writing that book that we always wanted to write.
We know that writing that book will give us joy in the long run. But having wasted that time on TV will not generate joy 5 years hence.
To follow the path of Shreya, set a goal—however small—and fulfil it no matter what. Every time we deploy effort aligned with purpose, we are practicing Shreya like abstaining from going to a party so we can get up and meditate in the morning. The path of Shreya is harder and less enjoyable initially, but its effects are long-lasting. Shreya guides us to our core—to true happiness and peace.
Appreciate the potential of ‘Now’
“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” ~ James Thurber
If there is one quote that has the power to change our life, its this one. It shakes us and wakes us up to the power that ‘NOW’ holds. We dwell on events of the past. Think of the actions that were taken or not taken, words that were said or left unsaid. All these thoughts lead to anger, regrets and depression.
On the other hand, our mind wanders to our future goal and their outcomes. Will they be favourable or unfavourable. Depending upon on psychological make-up, this can be a pretty anxiety provoking thought.
But the only time in which we can actually take action is in this moment. And that’s a super-power that we all have within us. Reality exists only in the present moment. Past only exists in our memory. Future is a figment of our imagination. Present is where your hands are. So take action right now with those hands.
Remember, this too shall pass
Buddhists perceive everything in life as an illusion — which means that nothing has a concrete existence. What we see as solid and permanent is only present for the time being. Eventually — within months, years, or decades — it will cease to exist. Buddha says ‘shanikam, shanikam, sarvam shanikam’. (momentary, momentary, everything is momentary). We create stress for ourselves unnecessarily, when we know everything is transient. Whether pleasurable or unpleasurable, why get attached to the transient and create pain. The thought of losing something good will make you worry just as much as thought of something going wrong. If this is not going to make a difference a year from now, why should we stress about it. We, as humans, think that things are permanent and that makes us get attached to things. Nothing is permanent. If it is a happy moment, its about to exit. If its a sad, its still about to exit.
Our control of the outer world is limited, temporary and often illusory. Our mind is conditioned to translating the conditions of the outer world into happiness and stress. What we control is how we accept those situations, how we act upon them in the current moment and practicing Healthy attachment. But when we follow the above four principles, we have the winning formula for lifelong state of joy and peace.
Shruti Varma is a Counselling Psychologist. She is a Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania Alumnus. Having held several leadership positions in various MNCs, Shruti is a leading Trainer and Counsellor in Emotions Management and Emotional Intelligence.
cover image credits: www.pixabay.com