Combating Modern Day Stress

One could argue that stress is a natural part of the human experience. However, in modern day life, stress has become a toxic and debilitating epidemic, permeating all populations of humanity. When our body experiences a stressful moment, the adrenal glands become stimulated amidst a cascade of sympathetic neural activity as the breath quickens and shortens. Known to some as the “Fight or Flight Response”, the belly begins to tighten, hampering the digestive process, and the muscles are poised to contract. This is a common everyday experience, written into the DNA code of every physical being; and yet when one has an ongoing level of stress in one’s life, the effects can be disastrous for the body, mind, and spirit.

When in the throes of such a stressful experience, one should question the cause and legitimacy of such. Are we facing a hungry tiger out in the African savannah?  Or are we reacting to the hurried driver who cut me off


Create opportunities throughout your day for mediation and reflection, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

in the right lane?  Both are real experiences, and stress actually helps us to deal with the situation in an immediate way that is self-protecting.  Our synapses help us make quick choices when dealing with the “tiger” on the road, just as they would facing the feline jaws.  Yet, how can we have stress without being had by it?  Therein lies the question, since most people relive their stressful experience again and again in the mind long after it has already passed.  As noted mystic Eckhart Tolle states, “There is only now…The present moment is as it is. Always. Can you let it be?”

Stress has existed since the beginning of time.  It was stressful to hunt (or be hunted) as well as to farm (or starve). Women could lose their lives giving birth.  War, disease and natural disaster separated families and all of these issues are still happening. Currently we find ourselves in the midst of the “Age of Information”, an era filled with many blessings and curses.  An overwhelming array of knowledge from so many different times and places around the globe is seamlessly packed into accessible venues for the public’s benefit and entertainment.  The challenge involves knowing which information is useful and pertinent to oneself.  The common individual is constantly barraged with oodles of meaningless, yet emotionally charged information these days.  Because of our technological advances, people also have more expectations than ever, but without the necessary time to get everything done.  We are getting tired and sick, and we aren’t allowing ourselves to have time to relax and restore.  A broken toe will not heal on a foot that is always running.

Though stress is a real and valid experience, it need not run one’s life.  It’s really a reflection of the mind, and its duration and intensity depend on how one relates to the stressor.  With mindfulness, one can react or respond…a stressful encounter can be embraced, where it can be made more manageable, and the adrenal response of the body can be used in a positive way…or one can be eaten up by the flames of stress and find oneself in a challenging reactionary circumstance.

In sum, stress can never be avoided but it can be utilized given the proper tools and level of awareness.

Some tips to consider:

  • Recognize where the stress is coming from. Is related to finance, health, or relationships? The sooner one embraces the “isness” of the situation, the more clearly one can think how to deal with the situation, and the less stressful one may feel.
  • Learn how to communicate with others and be prepared ahead of time.
  • Get rid of all kinds of clutter, including toxic relationships (another form of clutter).
  • Relax and take a deep breath. Find a Yoga or martial art practice to strengthen your body and mind.
  • Prioritize what is really important in your life and spend more time with family and friends.
  • Make acupuncture and aromatherapy massage a regular part of your lifestyle.
  • Find time to be creative…and dance with free flow movement to express yourself.
  • Eat organic and nutrient-rich food. Drink a cup of tea, savoring the moment…and turn off the Blackberry or iPhone.
  • Take time to be in nature. See the sunlight, get some fresh air.
  • Find a meditation practice and stick to it.
  • Detox seasonally.
  • Do some volunteer work to help others.
  • Most of all, practice “gratitude”. Too many of us take for granted what is around us. When we appreciate even the simplest things in our lives, our Heart opens up to see our Life in a much more meaningful way.
  • As Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. The real way to experience change is to look within ourselves and see what we must do. We are changing as the planet is going through changes. Learn to be more flexible with life’s circumstances. Feel the oneness we all share, and LOVE.

by Gregor & Wei Bertram