For many, if not most of us, modern life is highly stressful. It has become commonplace to say “I am stressed” or to be regularly stressed. While people may laugh and joke about it (if they are not already in despair), stress has real effects on your health. If you don’t quickly learn how to deal with it then you will find that it is up there with a poor diet and smoking as a factor implicated in heart disease and its consequences: heart disease and stroke. It is even thought to have biochemical implications that give rise to an increased risk of cancer. Stress is certainly something that nobody can ignore.
What Stress Really Is
Let’s quickly understand what stress really is because most people do not realise what it really is. Stress is a physical (and sometimes mental) response. Though you feel stress and the pain of it is enough to make most people try to avoid it, it is often the case that people will put up with mental stress or find a way of coping with it. Physical stress is when your body is out of balance. It may contain a high number of circulating stress hormones such as cortisol, for example, that are just not supposed to be there. Over time, this leads to poor health.
An event that causes stress is not necessarily stressful. Some say that specific jobs are stressful but this is simply not true. Some may be more likely to cause stress but I would argue that most people in those jobs did not learn how to cope with stress or are working in what are completely the wrong jobs for them. Here’s why.
Same Environment, Different Response – Why?
If you take two people and put them in the same environment (e.g. the same office) and observe them then one person may rarely get stressed while another may be regularly having outbursts and anxious moments. One is not stressed but the other regularly is. Why is this?
Though there are some major events which are universally stressful (e.g. death in the family), most of the time it is the person and not the event that is relevant to stress. Some people let events provoke the response in them when this need not be the case. A person can learn how to prevent their stress response.
Living In The Present
The key is to live in the present. All stress (and stress is inextricably linked to anxiety and depression – to some extent they are one and the same thing) occurs due to not living in the present but instead living in the past or the future.
If your mind is dominated by thoughts of the past or the future, what might have been, what could have been, what might happen and more – and often being preoccupied negatively – then this causes stress. It is only when you live purely in the moment, in the present, that stress cannot exist.
For example, you might be stressed about a future job interview. This is because you are focusing on the future and what might happen. You may also be dwelling on the past and missed opportunities. The answer is to deal with the future by preparing for it but then ignoring it and concentrating on living in the present.
One of the most widely respected people in the world on this very subject of stress and living in the present is Eckhart Tolle, a man who was once suicidal. He nearly succeeded in taking his own life before suddenly having a moment of revelation and understanding that living out of the present was the origin of much human misery, especially in the modern, western world.