Mental stress can be defined as:
An inward tension or pressure caused by the inability to manage the incoming information of outside stimuli.
In one of my recent (active) meditation sessions on how to reduce stress, a participant said they often got stressed quickly for no apparent reason and asked for a quick way to reduce stress. I said there is a way to learn how to reduce stress, but to be able to do it, you need to understand how and why stress builds up so quickly.
If we get stressed often and quickly, it means that we are harboring many internal conflicts and are not conscious of them. This makes it impossible to get rid of stress quickly. First, we must learn what causes mental stress.
Its origin is triggered by a signal from outside stimuli — a piece of information of an objective or subjective nature, or both at once. The mental stress develops very slowly at the beginning. We cannot observe its development because of our lack of understanding of mental energy.
The information we receive from the outside (which we dislike), creates a feeling that evolves into a negative emotion (negative mental energy). For example, the inability to understand or accept other people’s point of view can cause mental stress.
In my late twenties, I struggled consistently with mental stress. I was happy to work in a global corporation and also excited to be responsible for many projects at once. Despite the work load I had, I was a victim of mobbing because of my keen engagement towards my tasks. I was physically and mentally exhausted because of the many complex purchase orders I had to place for the projects assigned to me. On top of that, there were certain people in the organization giving me hard time because of my desire to strive to improve.
There was an immediate disharmony between me and these people that generated a feeling of intolerance and non-acceptance. This grew into feelings of disappointment and frustration, which ended up creating emotion of anger and anxiety over not performing well, which ultimately led to the loss of my job.
Day in, and day out, I was stressed. I understood that the people and the circumstances causing my mental stress wouldn’t change, so I had to understand that, accept it, and find a way to approach my stress and conflicts efficiently. I saw it as a challenge and was grateful for it. I not only reduced my mental stress but found a way to never let it develop again.
A technique is applied successfully when its essence is really understood and absorbed. If a technique is to be applied quickly, there must be extensive knowledge of the situation in which the technique is required.
In the context of mental stress, for example, we get scared and anxious in (sometimes normal) situations because we don’t know what is happening or what is going to happen. The uncertainty of the result causes tension and mental stress. The longer we move in that uncertainty, the greater and heavier our mental stress becomes.
The accomplishment of being able to deal with challenges and stressful life situations boosts our self-confidence and makes life meaningful and successful. However, this requires a certain expertise, and that expertise starts with self-inquiry and the development of a technique. To own a technique, we must develop activities into tools and apply them.
Activities + Tools + Practice = Technique.
All of the above are great stress relieving activities. However, they are not techniques that can teach you to understand the nature of mental stress, reduce it successfully, and even eliminate it entirely.
Being busy complying with daily duties, we have almost no time to devote to these stress relieving activities. We use them out of necessity as tools to reduce stress, and after the activity is finished, the mental stress crawls back and overtakes us again.
Then, most of us find simple activities like eating, entertaining, shopping, gambling, drugs, etc. as a shortcut to temporarily relieve stress. These generally end up creating negative long-term consequences like obesity, fatigue, boredom, depression, and so on.
As a result, mental stress clouds our mental clarity, withdrawing our creativity, not letting our intelligence to expand, and leaving us without motivation to deal with the root-cause of it all.
The technique I am about to describe here uses the activities mentioned above to create tools, the main elements of your own technique. As mentioned before:
Activity + Tools + Practice = Technique
Apply one of the greatest mental energies as tools to any of the above stress relieving activities to create your own individual technique:
When you evoke the emotion of gratitude to any of your activities, you switch your mental state from stressful to peaceful (grateful). When you consciously acknowledge gratitude toward the present, you send information to your brain that immediately soothes your central nervous system, producing positive hormones like serotonin and dopamine. These hormones reduce your mental stress and create a good feeling, a feeling of reward for having reached a goal.((Healthline: Serotonin))
Also, try to be grateful for the stressors that challenge your efficiency and signal an opportunity to improve.
Support this activity though rhythmic, conscious breathing and intensify your gratefulness and the feeling of that reward. Use your conscious breathing to create a breathing pattern that will identify the moment as one in which you’ve created safety, peace, and self-respect within yourself.
Once you merge the tools with the activities, you’ll be able to create your personal technique to reduce your mental stress quickly and naturally and apply it in literally any activity.
Apart from calming a busy mind, where you apply the techniques physiologically to reduce thoughts and calm the mind, here we need deeper expertise and the application of subtle energies to create specific thoughts to reduce and eliminate mental stress.
Identify the stressor (the root-cause of your stress). You can discover this by being aware of your surroundings and of your reactions to it; is it the person and her/his actions/behavior that are causing my stress? Is it the idea I have about how things are happening around me (at work or at home)?
Be realistic with yourself in identifying the root-cause of your stress. No one can do it more quickly.
After you have identified the stressor, generate specific thoughts, such as, “I am grateful for this challenge, and I will find a way to accept it as is and work on changing my approach and reaction to it.” Once you achieve this, the stressor has no longer the same level of influence on you.
Develop/apply the stress relieving activity together with the tool, and approach the stressor when you’re ready (don’t forget the specific thoughts from Step 1).
For example, your boss, your husband, your wife, or your teenage children are giving you a hard time. It takes only minutes to understand and accept that they can’t do better than that. Be grateful for this realization. They are a part of your life. You have paved your way, step by step, and you are partially responsible for being in this situation with them. If this situation is not life threatening, then it is nothing but a challenge, an opportunity for growth and development.
Apply gratitude and practice breathing exactly when the stressful situation is happening and not only when walking in the park or when you know that you are safe from the mental stress.
Practice these tools and this approach consciously in stress reliving activities, but most importantly in stressful situations, and do it continuously. This way you will develop your own individual technique and become an expert in dealing with your personal stressors.
You will begin to notice a change, and you’ll see how your approach is characterized by gratitude, patience, and tolerance. Communicate these qualities to your challenger and let him/her see your approach and good intentions as they are the main elements of your technique.
In a matter of days, by simply applying your own technique, you can reduce mental stress quickly and naturally. The technique that you create will make you the expert of your own actions and eventually of your own life.
The technician always owns the technique that is to be performed. Be the technician of your stress and of your life.