Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being is “Stress”.
By “well being” I mean “feeling” well and not just remaining physically fit or healthy. Your physical health determines whether your body is in good condition while your mental health determines whether your mind and thoughts are in good condition. If you have ugly thoughts coming in all day, how will you ever think about the things that really matter?
Broadly speaking, 95% of the problems or stress in our life is manufactured in our own mind by noone else but ourselves. You are yourself the culprit, you keep thinking useless things and cause unnecessary stress to yourself and then you wonder why you are not getting peace or feeling happy.
Stress can only be minimized when you change the direction of your thoughts. Stress is relieved through focus and identification of what is important and what is Junk, not through ailments. Most people run after ailments, medicines and adopt commercial methods to tackle stress but they are of little use when your mind is not in your control.
I am feeling stressed, let me call some friends and drink alcohol.
I am feeling stressed, let’s go for shopping.
I am feeling stressed, let’s do some random thing.
Mind is fickle. Mind strays and keeps hopping from one point to another point and wanders about thinking and doing bizarre things. The happiness achieved through these things are short lived (e.g alcohol, useless gossip, wandering about).
Since thoughts propel action and action propels thoughts, the subject never identifies what is causing him stress and keeps jumping around, thereby trapping itself into a vicious cycle of subconscious suffering. A condition is reached when stress becomes a habit and the subject feels normal when he is stressed (not knowing himself that he is stressed at any given point).
So how does one minimizes stress in his/her life? Here are a few principles that can be put to use
1. Wake up early. You should ideally wake up just when the sun is rising. This is the “Usha” kaal and this is the time when the mind of an individual is completely clean and the body is in a perfect condition to support the mind in concentrating in its inner depths. The mind should “Follow the sun”, it is said in Ayurveda that if a mind is sleeping while the sun is shinning, the mind will always have anxiety, stress and will eventually become sad.
2. Meditate in open air for 15-20 minutes. You should be meditating under open sky till the time you hear Birds chirping around and coming out of their nest. This is the time of the day when the mind orients itself and prepares itself for action that lies ahead later in the day. A mind which has oriented itself for work or study is more efficient than a mind which never spends time in orientation and jumps into work without any preparation or homework. Meditation is not necessary, if you don’t like to meditate, walk briskly and enjoy the calm atmosphere, feel the cold wind on your face. Do some exercise if you can.
3. Reduce the inflow of thoughts. Now that the day has started, hundreds of thousands of thoughts will gravitate towards you. This is related to how you live a life, whether you work or not, your routine and other things. Irrespective of your routine, you will start getting a flurry of thoughts as your day starts.
You need to repel this. The easiest way to do this is to focus on the thing that you are doing at any given time. We seldom follow this principle.
- While cleaning your teeth, you keep thinking about the presentation that is due in office.
- While taking shower, you keep thinking about your children’s report card.
- While driving to office, you keep thinking about the debt you need to pay the Bank this month.
- While working in office, you keep thinking about the movie that has released recently.
- While eating Lunch, you keep thinking what other people are thinking about you.
- While watching the movie, you keep thinking about dinner that needs to be bought before reaching home.
And so on and so forth.
Notice that the mind is doing one thing and thinking about something else that is lying in the subconscious. This proves that the mind is not alert in the present action and is always thinking about the future, pending tasks, and is engulfed in worries.
This signifies nothing but the weakness of the mind. This weakness is produced because the thoughts are not in control. The mind is like a castle with a millions gates and if you keep all the gates open all the time, imagine the volume of chaos that will be generated.
To stop the inflow of useless thoughts, focus on just the thing that you are doing at any given point in time. If you are brushing your teeth, concentrate on brushing and brushing alone. Your goal in those 5 minutes should be to brush the teeth as diligently as possible. If you think about something else during that time, two things happen
- You never pay due attention to your teeth and the style of brushing. (your loss)
- You allow useless things to enter your head when you are doing a “Kriya”, which causes nothing but worries (your loss).
“Kriya” should never be accompanied by “Chinta” that are not related to each other.
4. Speak less. Better, speak only when required.
It is said in Bhagvad Gita that whoever has controlled his speech, will eventually control his mind. Don’t talk anything that is not required. 3/4th of what you speak everyday is pure junk, which is one of the major causes of having ugly thoughts.
The moment you speak something useless, the mind records it. A part of your mental memory is used up in storing that junk. In human brain, junk spreads faster and covers more area than good thoughts. Whenever you want to say something, evaluate it in your heart and ask if it is absolutely necessary. If it is not, do not speak. Try to attain control of speech.
5. Abandon the company of fools
A Foolish man is the one who doesn’t know his Dharma and is doing something without knowing why he is doing it. In that context, your best friend can be a Foolish man. Your Boss can be a Foolish man. The most intelligent student in the class can be the biggest fool, the best performing colleague can also be a fool.
One should not keep the company of a fool, for the fool is worse than an enemy. Be careful in choosing the company you keep. You should keep the company of people who are diligent in their work and have good thoughts. People who are trapped in selfish desires, people who always speak ill of others, criticize the country and find fault in everything should be avoided.
The number of friends or associates does not matter. You should try to keep fewer but better friends who are wise, aware of their Dharma and propagate good thoughts.
6. Cut down Habits/Things that you don’t need
Do you really need to check email every hour? Do you really need a smartphone? Do you really need to post your thoughts on a website? Do you really need to criticize politicians every day? Do you really need the attention of everyone around you?
These are habits that you have inculcated just because everyone else is doing it. You don’t need these things, just remove them from your system. Downgrade your habits to their bare minimum. Don’t use something if you don’t absolutely need it.
Let me illustrate this with an example.
The other day one of my friends was tensed because he forgot his power bank at home.
I forgot the power bank at home
Why do you need it?
I need it to charge my phone when the battery gets low
And why will the battery get low?
I use a smartphone with lots of applications and use internet data, so the power gets low from time to time. I need this smartphone to check emails, be in touch with friends, play games and do a lot of other things. What do you do to charge your phone on the go?
I use a primitive phone and keep it switched off. I switch it on when I need to make a phone call and turn it back off. I charge the phone once a week. I am never distracted by my phone and use it only when I need to make a call. I don’t need the power bank in the first place.
This is a simple example to illustrate the elimination of useless things and habits from your life. My friends needs to play games in order to feel happy (there is a condition attached to his happiness). Due to this habit, he has to buy an expensive phone, always carry the charger with him and support the phone with a power bank, keep the power bank charged and look at the phone every other hour. Whenever there is any aberration in this cycle of behavior that is inter-dependent, stress will be formed.
What is the need of all this effort? Just to play games and do random things on a screen which adds no real value to his life.
A wise man will eliminate more than accumulating. A fool will hopelessly accumulate and create clutter.
7. Desire less.
We always want to go above and beyond. There is no end of human desires and desire propagates more desires which ultimately traps the subject.
Learn how to desire less. If you need X amount of money for survival every month, you should take up a job that pays no more than 4X. If you take up a job that pays you 10X, you will also have to work 10 times your affordable capacity, which will cause unnecessary stress, tension, work load and ultimately a breaking point will be reached.
A wise man is never a slave to money, since he knows that money is just a technology and not the principal thing in life. A wise man also repels unnecessary desires, since desire will bring more expectations which will cause misery in some form or the other.
A wise man also avoids unnecessary luxury, for he knows that what is luxury today will become a need tomorrow and then he will be stressed to meet that unnecessary need that sits in his imagination and dictates his action, thereby causing stress that is invisible to the naked eye.
8. Read good books
A person who does not read is no different from a person who cannot read. Even if it is one page, one stanza or one line, you should make it a habit to read good books everyday, before going to bed.
A good book will teach you something and will stimulate positive energy inside you. However, things like Television and newspapers are commercial platforms and they mostly stimulate negative things that appear attractive. Most of them are pure junk and they cause Entertainment in the short term but you get no real value.
Result is nothing but useless thoughts and since thoughts propel action, you will try to imitate something that appeals to you. You will flock to that news channel which spreads gossip about a celebrity, so you can discuss about it the next day. Nothing but the spreading of Junk from one mind to another mind. Eventually it becomes a habit and then you start gossiping about your friends and take pleasure. Karma hits you bad through the same action and stress comes as a consequence.
A small thing may have a big impact on your stress level, e.g – imitating someone’s style. Eventually, you will want to own a dress like the celebrity and to attain that dress, you will need money you don’t have. Further, you will expect people to praise your dress and take note and when this behavior is not followed, you will become unhappy.
Stress is relived through the abnegation of worldly desires and through the identification of what is useful and what is not.