stress and the mind

The human mind is central as an entity that embodies intellect, rational thought and all qualities that are drivers of witty inventions and human ingenuity; however it can from time to time burn out or malfunction due to stress. Stress is widely prevalent and impacts heavily on the quality of human life.

There have been many proposed ways in which to alleviate stress but most of these have fallen short of being effective in the long term due to the lack of knowledge in the understanding of stress from its origins to its progress. These short term fixes include taking breaks and going for vacations, and are like papering cracks on walls or spraying a room with perfume without removing the dead rat causing the foul smell. Therefore to tackle this problem, there is a need to understand the imbedded factors underlying the causes and factors of stress progression.


People are prone to believe that stress lies in the external world, that it’s their situation, environment, relationships causing the stress. A person smokes a cigarette and enjoys it; another detests it. One wants to divorce his wife; another waits desperately to marry the same woman. In the above scenarios, the supposed conditions that cause stress in one person are different from what causes stress in another, or even cause happiness in another.


Stress is internal; it is within you. And thus, the solution to stress lies not in management of external events but in self-management.


It is not the world that distresses you but how you relate to it”

“It is difficult to find happiness in oneself,” Arthur Schopenhauer said, “but it is impossible to find it anywhere else.”


Life is a series of experiences, experiences consists of two factors which is the person and their surroundings. The progression of science has enabled the creation of superior amenities and facilities for human leisure and comfort. However, a close examination of human progress reveals that an increase in these luxuries corresponds with a rise in stress levels due to the neglect of the individual while external factors are catered for.


And so this has prompted a rethinking of the ways to improve the human condition as a whole, which are both the individual and their surroundings being catered for simultaneously. For instance, you need both a good appetite to enjoy a good meal. Science can improve the quality of food, but if you have lost your appetite, for example because of nausea, then the meal is not pleasurable. We have focused so much on improving the world around us that the individual has been neglected to a point where he or she experiences the nausea of stress.


Self-management starts with you — the individual. It defines your state and relationship with the world. With this understanding, you can be empowered to handle the various situations you face in life and manage your stress effectively.


Stress is a state of agitation produced by unfulfilled desires in a mind that is not controlled by the intellect. When unattended, the mind that plays havoc in the human personality. The mind has a natural tendency to ramble, to stray away from a fixed point of concentration. It is prone to worry over past memories or to become anxious about future results. It seldom remains in the present. Most adults, then, squander their lives pondering over their past or anticipating their future. Their minds remain ever agitated, and so they suffer from stress throughout their life. They lack energy and enthusiasm and fail to function effectively, even in their chosen fields of activity.

In striking contrast, little children, bubbling with energy, act ceaselessly. It seems paradoxical that adults, who have far greater strength than children, have much less energy. This paradox stems from the fact that children have no worries about the past or anxieties for the future. They live in the present. Adults torment themselves with past thoughts and future desires, which constantly fatigues them.

The mind is replete with powerful likes and dislikes, and the ever-changing world is not designed to cater to the likes and dislikes of a single individual. The inevitable clash produces constant stress and strain. For example, most people like warm weather, but since the weather is always changing, they become stressed when the weather becomes cold or rainy. The world presents innumerable situations like this, which accumulate and generate constant stress in human beings who cannot accept the inevitability of change.


The mind is infested with insatiable demands, which increase with age. No amount of external acquisitions can appease these cravings, which also generate stress. Thus, unless a human being develops an intellect strong enough to control and regulate the vagaries of the mind, he or she will remain under stress. It is true that development of the intellect is a long-term process that takes consistent effort and application. However, to help one reduce everyday stress, there are two practical, powerful tools.

Assess the World Properly. People everywhere experience severe stress because they wrongly assess the world around them, or do not assess it at all. If you do not care to properly assess the environment that touches you, the climate that you live in, the nature of the people you relate to, and so on, then you develop unreasonable expectations from these contacts. Your mind makes demands and you believe your world should cater to those specific demands and serve the whims and fancies of your mind. You expect everything to fit into your preconceived mental pattern. It is, of course, most unreasonable to expect the entire world to bow down to your personal likes and dislikes, and such unreasonable expectations cause disappointments, which, in turn, create stress.

The solution lies in correctly observing, analyzing, and assessing the people, environment, and situations that you face daily. Begin with the people who are closest to you — both at home and at work. Observe their outer conduct closely, and then try to ascertain their inner nature. Remember — like you, they are helpless victims of their own natures and will manifest them, regardless of your expectations. The winter will be cold; the summer will be hot. Similarly, family, government policies, traffic congestion, colleagues, and the myriad of situations you encounter daily will change, regardless of what you expect.


Take the example of your relationships with others. Having observed their nature and understanding that they will express it, no matter what you desire, the next step is to decide whether you want to relate, work, or live with these individuals. If you decide to continue on with these relationships, you should then accept their nature and behavior. It is then foolish and futile to grumble and complain. How can you expect them to be different from what they are? How can you expect a hysterical boss at the office to be calm and composed? How can you expect a nagging wife to be sweet and docile? How can you expect a rebellious teenager to be mature and calm?  Whom do you fault — the individuals themselves, who, like you, are helplessly expressing their own nature? Or should you fault yourself for expecting the impossible, that they can separate themselves from their basic nature? When things and people do not go your way and disappoint you, don’t grumble your life away. All these erroneous expectations add to your stress. Let people live their own lives!


Remember, all grumbling is tantamount to: Oh! why is a lily not an oak?

Take an Inward Rather than Outward View. People are stressed because they constantly have an outward view of their lives. They are always looking at what they don’t have. Instead, go inward. Observe what you have without focusing on what you do not have, and you will experience an immediate reduction in stress levels. Remember the well-known saying: “I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet!” If you observe yourself and your life closely, you can discover the great benefactions constantly showered upon you. You have two eyes to see; there are people who don’t have eyes. You live in a place of peace, while people elsewhere are oppressed by war, famine, and genocide. There are so many things to be grateful for; why be stressed about things you do not possess? That is not to say you should not endeavor to achieve deeper satisfaction with life, but at any time, be grateful for where you are at the moment.


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