Stress is unavoidable in life. It is intrinsic to a human incarnation. Stress, however, it is not to be avoided “at all costs”.
In some Eastern philosophies and spiritual traditions, it is believed that there is a gift inherent in the challenge [stressor] being presented. There may be something the stressful situation is trying to teach us about ourselves – physically, emotionally, or psychologically.
This is the planet of duality – up/down, left/right, forward/reverse, positive/negative, good/bad – you get the point. It is instinctual in a human to judge a situation – especially if it is negatively affecting you. If someone is emotionally self-aware, they may be able to take a neutral stance and be objective about the situation – attempting to see both sides of the problem or issue in order to evaluate the best course of action to resolve it.
In Western society, we are quick to label some situation or event as a “problem” if we are inconvenienced in any way. Labeling as such, automatically puts a negative connotation on it, and biases us to expect the worst – something to be dealt with so we can move on and get back to our important lives. In reality, it perpetuates it by not uncovering what the underlying causes are that precipitated the stress.
In Taoism, water is often used as a metaphor. Its fluidity and ability to shape itself into any form, speaks to its non-resistance to any object that comes before it. When confronted by an obstacle, a boulder for example, in the middle of a stream, the stream will always find its way – either up, over, around, or under the barrier so it can continue its journey. It is adaptable. It does not resist its circumstance.
Using the metaphor of water can be helpful in dealing with stress. The old adage of “what we resist persists” is also applicable. If we resist the opportunity to engage in the “message” the stressor is conveying, we risk repeating the scenario, again and again, until we are incapacitated by some dis-ease that can do harm. That is just how it works.
With normal stress, taking a step back, going within and asking yourself, “How is this issue [stressor] making me feel physically, mentally, emotionally, and yes, spirituality?” is a crucial first step in bringing the stress to resolution. You begin engaging your innate wisdom that will ultimately liberate you. This step is imperative if you want to get to the core of the issue and begin to heal on whatever level[s] it is affecting you. By taking a neutral stance – without judging the way you have responded – you are able to review all the components that are contributing to your dis-ease [stress].
Start your review with the most obvious area of inquiry: your physical body. How is your body responding to the stress? How’s your sleep? How’s your energy level? How’s your appetite? How’s your libido? Are you exercising? Is being physically exhausted at the end of the day considered the norm? Your answers to these questions begins the unfolding of the path to healing and resolution. Your body is providing information on what needs correction.
Next, inquire about how the stressor is affecting your mental abilities. Is your ability to think clearly being compromised? Does keeping everything in your head make you feel like your head is crammed with too much information that cannot be processed fast enough – like your hard drive needs to be defragged to use a technology metaphor? Do you berate yourself for this, vowing to get yourself more organized – more time management [another insidious trick adding to the original stressor]? Is your critical thinking capacity diminished? Again, neutral stance responses to these questions will begin unearthing the path to the core issue[s] contributing to the “source thought” about what is really going on.
Have your emotions taken a hit from this stress? Is fear at play? A huge consideration. Has your ability to keep your emotions in check been compromised? Are you more easily triggered by an insensitive or off-hand remark? Do you find yourself being overly critical of others, or more devastatingly, of yourself? Are people in your sphere of influence reacting differently toward you? Again, the answers that arise, will give more definition and contrast to the emerging picture of why you feel stressed.
On the spiritual level, have you lost your sense of being grounded and in present time? Are those dependable harbors of sanity and soul rejuvenation been shrouded by the mental fog fostered by the stress? Has your meditation or yoga practice been abandoned because “there’s just not enough time in my day”? Has the practice of spiritual self-care fallen into the brambles of your busy life?
Each of these areas must be delved into fully, and with rigor, to get to the source of the stress. Do not delude yourself in thinking that the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects are not related and intertwined in some way – they most certainly are.
Vast amounts of research in psychoneuroimmunology [mind/body medicine] show that there is a direct correlation between our emotions and physical health. The benefits of taking the time deeply exploring these four levels of our nature, and seeing how they are interrelated, will begin your liberation from the bondage of stress. Interestingly, if you begin this review in earnest, you may begin seeing a life theme emerge that keeps placing you in the same type of stressful situation in life time and again – only in a different venue with different players.
The gift hidden in the stress is for your ultimate awakening to the realization that you have experienced this feeling before in some iteration of the circumstance you find yourself in now; acknowledging to yourself that “This is Enough! and things have to change”; and having the humility of setting your ego aside and allowing your own healing wisdom to point you in a direction of a solution. More importantly, is the self-empowerment that comes from believing that you are your own agent of change.
Figuring out how life works is a life-long process. Developing tools to overcome the pitfalls, sink holes, sandbars, and seemingly insurmountable walls can make engaging with the next challenging stressor less daunting because you can apply the same methodology of self-review.
Stress is probably the most common condition that clients report when they come to see me for Craniosacral Therapy. Think of it as giving yourself a one-hour time-out that allows your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual systems to come into alignment, and in that great Stillness that arises there may dawn a deep realization on the way forward to releasing the stress holding you captive. I have seen this happen innumerable times with my clients.