We generally hear that there is too mush stress, strain and tension in our day to day life. In business we have cut throat competition. There may be strain within the family or in social relationships. Within ourselves we may find disintegration. This stress and strain is experienced by us as anxiety, worry, fear, or frustration.
How do we overcome these various stresses? Some people try smoking and drinking. Others seek change, a vacation. Thus, we adopt various temporary escapes from tension. Some of these are tamasik (inactive) such as the drinking, or rajasik (active) such as attending a spiritual retreat; but that can also be an escape if we do not make right use of it. How do we know whether it was an escape? If, after the retreat, we are afraid of diversion, then it did not solve our problem. When we gain a new vision at the retreat, we should become more dynamic and fearless, ready to face all challenges.
A certain kind of stress is normal, physical and objective. Therefore I will call it Objective Stress. Such a stress is experienced when we face a challenging situation — a lot of work has to be accomplished within a short period of time. If we have a tight schedule of engagements, even though we may be efficient, we feel stressed out because the time is limited. In such circumstances we must “keep cool” and not get overexcited, and figure out how our work can be accomplished in a short time. This is called the science of time management. For example, if I have to write ten letters in a short time, I should write only a few lines in each letter. Thus, we can see how the maximum work can be accomplished quickly.
One method of overcoming stress in the objective field is to become more disciplined and organised. The discipline of getting up earlier can make our lives smoother. When we hurry we try to do things quickly and often make mistakes, but with planning and discipline we can act with greater efficiency and less strain.
Another kind of stress is Subjective Stress. In the outer world there are only situations; in the physical world there is no stress, no tension. The strain that we feel, which is so exhausting, is not because of the outer situations but because of our inner reaction to the situations.
When does the outer situation become a problem, a threat? Worry and anxiety arise from our inability to face a particular situation and to deal with it effectively. This is the stress that we feel in many forms and we try to find relief in many ways. Anxiety comes when we are unprepared. If a student has studied well, is the examination a problem for him? No, because he is well prepared !
If the student who has studied well goes to the examination and is still anxious, there may be other reasons, such as personal ambitions or higher expectations from his parents which make him think, “I must do really well. I must get an A.” The stress and anxiety he experiences comes from an insistence upon a particular fruit of action, “This and this alone should happen.” Thus, expectation, ambition, or desire, instead of being a motivating force, can become a dissipating factor. Stress can be created by expectation. Desire and ambition should inspire us to work, but if too strong, they cause only perspiration, not inspiration!
When there is insecurity in the job or emotional insecurity, a strained relationship within the family, or any other type of insecurity then there is always stress. At every moment there is fear. The only certain thing about the world is that everything is uncertain. Accepting the fact that nothing is certain, that all is unstable, itself relieves tensions and stress.
The most effective method of avoiding subjective stress is to have faith — call it faith, devotion, or surrender. Faith is the clear understanding that the one Lord is taking care of us. Is He not running everything? And still we are worried? That is why in the Bhaja Govindam it is said, ” O fool! Why worry…? Is there not for you the One who ordains, rules and commands?”
When we travel by plane, the plane flies, we only eat and sleep. We know that the pilot is taking care of us; we have faith in him. When we are seasoned travellers, we are not afraid of anything. We are relaxed.
We should have the same attitude in the voyage of life, remembering Lord Krishna’s promise: “Rest assured. Remember Me. I will take care of you. Those who remember Me with single – pointed attention I take care of; I take care of their entire life.” – Swami Tejomayananda
Swami Swaroopananda will be conducting six evening talks on the topic ‘Success without Stress’ at the Sattavis Centre in Wembley, London from 11-16 May 2014. Join our Facebook page for the latest news and inspiring posts from Chinmaya Mission UK.