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Importance of stress relief
As I mentioned here, people often stress themselves out because of success standards imposed on them by society which they are unable to meet. Moreover, there are also other causes of stress anyone can encounter. For example, toxic bosses and toxic and manipulative people in general, heavy workload, financial insecurity, divorce, traumatic events, etc.
Stress relief is utterly important because according to Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, 90% of illness and disease is stress-related. So, people unable to cope with prolonged stress have high chances to develop anxiety, depression, stroke, heart attack and even cancer. A disease, in its turn, can lead to financial and family problems which cause even more stress. It all seems to be a vicious circle. But, the good news is that it’s possible to prevent it and sometimes even break it!
How to relieve stress for a long time
All you need is stress relief and all you have to do for it is to throw stress out of your life. It’s really that simple. Relaxation candles, relaxing music, as well as occasional meditations can relieve stress for some time, but it will return as soon as a stressful situation occurs. Instead of getting rid of the problem, you’re trying to mask it. Your real problem is not stress but your inability to react to situations in a healthy way.
Several years ago I was working at a job I didn’t enjoy anymore. My life was miserable as I had social anxiety and panic attacks. I also often got sick and had doctor’s appointments almost every month (being 22 years old and having no chronic diseases). Each new day brought nothing but suffering. Then once, during a workday (as my job was related to reading a lot of information and some of it was brand new to me) I came across such term as the Eightfold Path which is a Buddhist concept. Needless to say, I knew nothing about Buddhism back then, but having read about the Eightfold Path and the core beliefs of Buddhism, I felt that I was finally getting answers to the questions no one could give me answers to before, and moreover, I finally felt that there were people in this world who felt and thought just the way I felt and thought.
So, what did Buddhism teach me and what does it have to do with stress relief? First of all, according to the Four Noble Truths, the core of Buddhism, life is suffering. As an empath, I was very aware of it at that time. Instead of telling me that life was all rainbows and unicorns, like people around me were doing (even though they were unhappy), Buddhism saw things the way I saw them and as they were. Also, Buddhism taught me that suffering comes from attachment and desires. I couldn’t agree more. I had so many cravings! There were few material things I didn’t want to own. I was rushing through life, taking extra work just to buy things I didn’t need to impress people I didn’t like. Then I learned that suffering ends when there’s no attachment and desires. Again, I couldn’t agree more, but it was hard to imagine that one day I would desire less. However, I read about the Eightfold Path, which is supposed to help people reach enlightenment or well, at least to relieve stress and reduce suffering would be enough for me. So, I decided to try following it.
How the Eightfold Path helped me with stress relief
The Eightfold Path consists of the right view, right intentions, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, and right mindfulness.
The right view
The right view is about understanding life and accepting it as it is. I already knew that we face consequences for all our actions and thoughts – that is called Karma. What I still had to learn was seeing things and situations without any illusions. It turned out that one of the underlying reasons for my social anxiety were my illusions related to other people. I had difficulty understanding other people’s motives and trusting their words, so I often turned to overthinking but it didn’t help me understand people better, it created even more trouble. Then I learned something that helped me with the right view: according to a famous Russian psychiatrist, Andrey Kurpatov, we can’t understand other people even though we may think that we understand them perfectly, because everyone has their own mindset formed in line with some particular background, so we are just unable to put ourselves in another person’s shoes. So, I figured out that my social anxiety was actually my own mind judging me and not other people hating me.
I also learned that: “Peace begins when expectation ends.” —Sri Chinmoy. Stop expecting anything from people and the world. Accept everything that happens in your life peacefully as you have no control over people and situations.
I had to get rid of judgements, desires, and attachments. Another great thing I learned in this regard, was: “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” It all helped me to relieve stress a great deal but my journey didn’t stop there.
The rightful intentions
The rightful intentions mean eliminating destructive thoughts which cause bad intentions. Positive thoughts as well as positive words and actions do not only increase your happiness but also generate positive Karma. The aim of the rightful intentions is to substitute negative intentions such as harmfulness, ill-willed intentions, and intentions led by desire with positive ones such as harmlessness, good-willed intentions, and renunciation (meaning that you let go of attachments and desires). What I learned in regard to rightful intentions was: “Don’t get upset with people or situations because both are powerless without your reaction.” Accept the reality as is and don’t let negative thoughts occupy your mind.
The right speech
The right speech can briefly be explained in one saying: “Open your mouth only if what you’re going to say is more beautiful than silence.” So, it means that you should not only refrain from using offensive words but also never lie and gossip.
The right action
The right action implies causing no suffering to other living beings, avoiding killing, stealing (taking something that was not given to you voluntarily by its owner), and avoiding sexual misconduct.
The right livelihood
The right livelihood promotes making a living in ethical ways. Your work should not be illegal, harmful to other living beings or to the environment.
The right effort
The right effort is related to your spiritual awakening. Your journey to enlightenment is impossible if you don’t put enough effort yourself. The right effort implies that you should avoid negative traits and states of mind as well as cultivate and maintain positive ones such as kindness, compassion, etc.
The right concentration
The right concentration means focusing on one thing at a time. It is believed that meditation is the best example of the right concentration and an integral part of Buddhism. It’s well-known that meditation reduces stress, anxiety and depression as well as affects physical health in a positive way.
The right mindfulness
The right mindfulness is about being in the here and now; focusing on the reality instead of being distracted by illusions and negative states of mind; being aware of the reality as it is. Whenever you notice that your mind is wandering somewhere in the past or in the future, return it to the here and now: focus on your breathing, on sounds around you, on sensations in your body, etc.
Stress relief books
Following the Eightfold Path as much as I could at 22 and daily meditations did help me to relieve stress and even overcome social anxiety for some time. However, being a not very persistent person at 22, I soon stopped meditating and didn’t pay as much attention to strictly following the Eightfold Path as I should have.
However, my journey to enlightenment didn’t end there. New questions kept arising, new situations kept occurring and I still needed answers. I don’t know why, but I always get the right information at the right time. I like to think that it’s the Universe that sends me the needed information which contains answers to all of my questions. So, I found several books at home, which belong to my mom. There were books by Louise Hay, Lise Bourbeau, Luule Viilma, and Deepak Chopra. All four books helped me a lot to understand how everything works in this world but the most prominent one for me was the book by Deepak Chopra called The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. I have no idea how my mother managed to get this rare book in a post-USSR country. Maybe it was meant to reach me and later – my cousin? I wish teachers made us read this book in school because I feel that if everyone read it, there wouldn’t be wars, poverty, lies, misery, cruelty, violence. Everyone would be happy, healthy, and prosperous from their early years. I really can’t understand why we’re supposed to read books about unhappy and cruel people as children instead of reading about the right things! But whatever.
I learned A LOT from The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Actually, I could cite the entire book because it’s that great. But the most important thing that I learned was that it’s our ego that makes us worry and suffer.
I realized that so many people I knew at that time and so many public figures, for example, politicians, I frequently thought of as “why would they even do that?”, were slaves of their ego. Their ego causes them so much trouble, it makes them suffer, it makes them compete, it makes them feel offended or humiliated, it makes them prove something to other people, it makes them impress other people, it makes them fight for wealth, fight to prove their point of view, fight to conquer new territories, it makes them kill, it makes them send young boys to war and ruin their lives, etc.
People governed by their ego can’t live a peaceful life. Their life is full of stress as they are trying their best to control things which are not in their power as they are not God. But those people just can’t understand it. So, they sacrifice their peace, their happiness, health, family, good karma for worldly power which is something their ego craves. Instead of doing all these stupid difficult things the only thing they should do is to kill their ego. They need to become humble. If someone is rude – so what? If someone doesn’t pay you enough respect – so what? An enlightened person doesn’t need anyone’s respect! Even if you can’t believe that we’re living in a pool of energy which is the Universe all being just bits of energy and not more than that, making your ego shut up is still a good idea.
These days I’m reading another powerful book which is called Reality Transurfing by Vadim Zeland. I’m planning to write an extensive review of the book as soon as I finish it. However, I must warn you that the book requires some preparation. I am afraid that not everyone is able to understand it, as all people are on different levels spiritually. If you’re interested in improving your quality of life, I’d recommend you to read The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success first, and then, if you are mentally and spiritually ready, read the masterpiece by Vadim Zeland. Zeland looks at the same concepts from a slightly different angle. If Chopra looks at them mostly from the spiritual angle, Zeland looks at them from the angle of your own wellbeing. Of course, both angles are correlated. Needless to say, this very article was inspired by the two books as they influenced my life and its quality in a positive way.
So, having read a lot of information on mindfulness and spirituality, and having received answers to most of my questions, I’ve figured out that our life, at some particular moment, is the result of our actions, thoughts (including limiting beliefs) and words in the past. If you get ill, it’s Karma, and it wants you to reconsider some of your past or maybe current actions, lifestyle, thoughts. If you’ve been rushing through life, trying to earn all money in the world, if you’ve been neglecting your family, if you’ve been rude to people, if you’ve been thinking that you control everything, if you’ve been a toxic boss, if you’ve been stressing yourself out, etc…don’t be surprised when you learn about your illness. You still have a chance though. The purpose of this article is to give you an idea that there’s another lifestyle: a stress free lifestyle.
And vice versa, if you are a kind person, you give without the desire to get something in return, if you don’t lie, don’t gossip, if you help animals, if you don’t cling to situations and negative thoughts, if you don’t have unrealistic expectations, if you’re nice to people, if you are ready to put effort to achieve your goals, if you don’t crave power and wealth for the sake of being rich, if you don’t harm others, don’t kill living beings be it even a fly, if you understand that you have nothing under your control as you are not God but just a human, if you understand that you’ll face consequences for all your thoughts and actions, if you pay attention to your mental health, if you don’t make money your God and don’t sacrifice everything for it, if in case something doesn’t go as planned you don’t fight the Universe but choose the best option thrown at you, if you’re generous…in this case, there is NO WAY you’ll be unhappy, poor, miserable in love, etc. You’ll be able to build healthy relationships, be prosperous, and healthy because you ALWAYS attract the kind of energy you radiate.
You should be in a peaceful state of mind as often as possible even if it seems that nothing in life is going in your favor, because you may not understand it at that point, but obstacles in your way may actually be a blessing in disguise leading you to your goals faster or even changing your direction entirely.
Stress is just your reaction to life lessons. If you start learning the lessons, stress will loosen its grip. Don’t blame anyone for your “problems” (I put this word inside quotation marks because many problems are not problems – they are options you are unable to recognize because of your ill reaction). You’re the only person responsible for your peace, life, and happiness. If you want to change your life – change your mind. “A negative mind will never give you a positive life.”
We come to this world not to earn money, not to go to work, not to be nervous because of life, not to buy cool or expensive stuff, not to have fun, but to learn and grow spiritually. I hope this article helped you learn something new and from now on you know that long-term stress relief is easy for people who know about the Eightfold Path. As I like to say, remember that after all, nothing really matters but kindness.
Let’s spread mindfulness together! Share this article with a friend who has been suffering from stress a lot lately.
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