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Jump to the following topics:

  1. What is stress?
  2. Stress can be pleasant or unpleasant. 
  3. The techniques for managing stress.  

What is stress? It is the tension which arises as a psychological and physiological response to a challenge. (Two definitions: "stressors" are the situations that trigger stress; "stress" is our reaction.)

Stress can be pleasant or unpleasant. We usually consider stress to be an unpleasant condition, but it is necessary -- and it can even be enjoyable.

  1. The positive aspects of stress.
    • Stress stimulates us physically and psychologically. We all seek stress in various ways -- perhaps through a challenging job, exhilarating relationships, competitive games, exciting television programs, dangerous sports, difficult hobbies, vacations to exotic locales, social events where we meet new people, fast cars, roller coasters, horror movies, any activity which causes the body's release of adrenaline and endorphin, provocative conversations, etc. Without stress, we would be bored, dull, and depressed.
    • Stress is necessary for the physical body. Stress is displayed in muscle tone, muscle contractions (including those of the heart and lungs), and the structural bonds which literally hold the body together. Without stress, we would be dead.
    • Stress is our experience of the energy of life itself. Stress is energy in its natural state of suspension between material objects (including people and physical objects) as they work toward resolution (i.e., discharge of the energy from the high-charged object to the low-charged object). Thus, the dynamic of stress is actually the dynamic of the yinyang principle:
      • Spirit "splits" into two complementary poles for the purpose of manifestation in the dualistic worlds of materiality. When the split occurs, energy is released; this phenomenon is somewhat analogous to the release of energy when an atom is split by atomic fission. However, the energy is not dissipated (as in an "atomic bomb"); instead, it remains suspended as a bond between the polarized objects, e.g., yin and yang, worker and goal, hunter and food, "the needer" and "the needed," and "any part of ourselves" and "whatever that part wants." We experience this suspended energy as stress.
      • The two polarized objects (which contain the high-charged yang and the low-charged yin) are drawn back together by the force of the energetic bond. We experience this attraction in the form of motivation, creative impulses, psychological drives (e.g., the ego's drive to manifest a personal physical environment), physiological drives (e.g., hunger, sexual tension, etc.), and the demands of our various obligations (at work, at home, in our social life, etc.), and so on.
      • When the polarized objects come into contact, they exchange energy; i.e., they discharge energy into one another. Thus, the stress is relieved, and we achieve a type of wholeness; we even achieve a type of transcendence, as the union of spirit's polarities grants us a brief experience of spirit itself. Depending upon the type of polarities which resolve their charge, we might experience this completion in various forms: happiness, joy, relief, satisfaction, delight, sexual orgasm, etc.  

  2. The negative aspects of stress.
    • Severe, unrelenting stress can cause physical fatigue and illness. In a fast-paced society, stress is responsible for many ailments.
    • We might be unsuccessful in finding a productive means by which to satisfy our need for stress. Instead, we achieve the stimulation through destructive means: recreational drugs, emotionalism (perhaps expressed in the form of arguments), and fighting (in bar-room brawls, or in our living room when our restless kids are confined inside on a rainy day).
    • We experience stress in the form of desire and attachment. In eastern religions, desire and attachment are given a negative valuation -- but they are merely the dynamics by which the stress of the yinyang polarization draws the opposites toward one another for their spiritual re-uniting.

The techniques for managing stress. In "stress management," we do not try to eliminate stress (which is a necessary part of life); instead, we try to regulate the amount of it so that we are stimulated but not over-stimulated.

  1. Archetypal field-work.
    • Self-talk. For example: "I enjoy stimulation and I enjoy relaxation." "I accept my body's need for rest." "I can manage the challenges of my life." "I respect the cycles of activity and rest."
    • Directed imagination. We can visualize ourselves being relaxed in various situations which would usually be excessively stressful. Or we can visualize a peaceful scene, e.g., a calm riverbank.
    • Energy toning. We can implant the energy tones of serenity, confidence, composure, poise, contentment, optimism, etc.
    • The "as if" principle. We can act as if we are calm in stressful circumstances.
  2. We can develop our awareness of intuition. Intuition can give us many types of information: a valuation of situations (so that we know whether it is worthy of a stressful confrontation at all), instructions for managing challenges, an awareness of our need for stress (so that we acquire an adequate amount, but not an excessive amount), a discernment of the tasks which are ours to perform versus the tasks which we can surrender trustingly to life (i.e., spirit), etc.
  3. We can accept stress as a part of life. In contrast, if we desire a stress-free life, we cause additional stress because we fear and avoid life's conflicts, and we react with the added complications of anger and indignation whenever the inevitable difficulties occur.
  4. We can question our habitual responses to stressors. For example, when we are preparing for a blind date, one person might experience fear and worry while the other person experiences excitement and the anticipation of pleasure. Regardless of our traditional view that a particular circumstance should cause a particular amount of stress (or a particular type of stress), we are free to experience the stress in any way which pleases us. Our "experience" depends upon many factors, including the self-talk and imagery which we apply to the upcoming event.
  5. We can take an active approach to our problems. Stress is the energy in any unresolved situation, i.e., any "problem." The stress increases if we feel powerless and inundated. Therefore, we can reduce stress by using problem-solving skills, taking direct action, making decisions, being assertive, getting information which might lead to a resolution, setting goals and priorities, being well-organized, using time management, and enhancing the situation's required skills (e.g., job skills, computer skills, conversational skills, etc.).
  6. We can increase our ability to relax. And we can take "breaks" throughout the day. The break might be a walk, a hobby, a visit to a museum or park, a vacation (even if it's only one day), a massage, a full night's sleep, a five-minute visualization of a peaceful place, or another diversion. During this time, we are recharging from the strain of stress.
  7. We can question our goals. If we have too much stress in our life, we might have adopted too many material challenges. To decrease the stress, we can reduce the magnitude of some of our goals (particularly if they are perfectionistic or unnecessarily competitive), and we can eliminate some of our other goals. Happiness does not come from the attainment of goals; it comes from the savoring of whatever we have acquired, so there is no reason to stockpile goods for which we do not have the time and the relaxed state for "savoring."
  8. We can alter the amount of "change." Stress is increased when we need to meet new challenges when our regular routine is changed (for better or for worse). If we feel overwhelmed by the changes and the stress, we can counteract the problem by retreating to familiar places, hobbies, music, and friends. And when we feel underwhelmed, we can seek novelty, innovation, and surprises.
  9. We can exercise to reduce stress. Exercise reduces physiological stress in the form of muscle tension. And exercise can reduce psychological stress by diverting our attention from our complex intellectualizing to the simple, non-verbal basics of our body; it is a healthful form of escape.
  10. We can remove stressors from our environment. Those stressors include noise, bad lighting, disagreeable odors, an unpleasant view, insufficient privacy, and uncomfortable humidity or temperature.
  11. We can use this assortment of ideas:
    • We can express our emotions. Emotional tension is released when we laugh, cry, sing, dance, etc.
    • We can improve our nutrition. The body becomes over-stimulated if we have a diet of sugar, alcohol, and valueless foods.
    • We can consume less caffeine in the form of tea, coffee, and soda.
    • We can maintain proper posture. If we slump, we create stress throughout the spine.
    • We can get a pet. Our stress is reduced when we play with a pet. (However, a pet might cause stress, if it tends to be very demanding, noisy, or destructive.)
    • We can spend some time alone.
    • We can distract ourselves from our dilemmas by helping other people (on a one-to-one basis or through group volunteer work). Or, if we are stressing ourselves by doing too much for others at our expense, we can cut back on the helpfulness and instead take care of our own needs.

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