Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thoughts on Stress

Stress is the foundation, environment, or beginning of a vast number of deadly diseases. We know about it, yet when we let stress be present for extended periods of time, stress and tension become natural, learned behavior, while it’s opposite, relaxation, becomes un-natural and unlearned. Part of the human condition is that we can adapt to situations, bear great burdens for long periods of time, and function in spite of factors telling us not to proceed. This is where stress gets in. We think we can handle it. We’ll just relax when the work or burden is finished. But burdens and work never finish. So we soldier on and just keep going. I mean, we are able to do everything aren’t we? Nothing is stopping us? I must be over-thinking this. But when the stress reaches levels and depths of your being, the damage is going to be done. PTSD, exhaustion, nervous breakdowns, disease, panic attacks, and sickness only name a few.

How do recognize stress? How do we deal with it? What can be done? I hope to share with you my over thirty five years of teaching people to relax, center, calm, and empower themselves through many practices and methods most notably the art of Tai-Chi Chuan and meditation.

If a tiger were to suddenly appear in the room you are in now, I would expect you to experience some stress! This stress is good. High blood pressure, tense muscles, quick chest breathing, and a strong desire to act, not think, just what you need to get away from a tiger. Our problem in the modern world is that we spend time thinking about the tiger that MIGHT come into the room. The trouble is, the mind, energy, and body-connection do not take time to decide if you are imagining the tiger or really seeing it. Have you ever thought of a lover who was not present and yet experienced arousal and feelings of love? Have you ever woken up from a night mare soaked in sweat, chest heaving, looking to act? Our thoughts have a huge effect on our bodies. When we worry and do not solve our problems, the body reacts and gets ready for action, but the action never comes. The preparation and alchemical change is there, but the energy and power do not get used. That energy, which would make you do amazing things, is stuck. And it starts to damage your body instead.

Panic attacks are when the energy makes the body ready for action, and the body makes the energy ready for action. The nervous system directed by the mind makes the kidneys excrete adrenaline, which in turn stimulates the nervous system. Chest breathing turns on the adrenaline and adrenaline makes you breathe with your chest. It is a cycle that feeds itself. There are methods and techniques for stopping this process, but they have to be trained. There is an old Sufi saying that if you don’t call on God during the good times, He won’t answer you during the bad times. For stress-relief this means that if you don’t practice calming yourself and relieving stress when you are calm, you will have a difficult time calming down during stressful times

We have all heard of the “fight or flight syndrome,” the urge to fight what is causing you stress, or to run away as fast as you can. There is tremendous energy available for you to either strike out or to beat a fast retreat. Actually there is a third part to that, freeze. Freeze is when that energy is stuck. The energy is there, but you can neither fight nor run, you are stuck. That energy will also hurt your body. Depression is highly stressful and takes a heavy toll on the body, as well as the mind and energy. The Tao Te Ching, the first book of Taoism, says “movement overcomes cold, stillness overcomes heat.” Cold can be a metaphor for depression, and heat for anger. Movement breaks the pattern of the cold stillness in depression and stillness breaks the pattern in the fiery movement of anger.

In the right situation or thought, these three, fight-flight-freeze, are valid responses, but in the wrong place or wrong time, or for over extended periods of time, that energy can injure and eventually kill you. The good news is that there are effective methods, practices, and training to relieve stress.

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