Bhaja Govindam - An effective Stress Management Technique

What Is Needed?

Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Insufficient stress acts as a discouragement and may leave us feeling bored or dejected; on the other hand, excessive stress may leave us feeling "tied up in knots." What we need to do is find the optimal level of stress which will motivate but not overwhelm us.

There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all people. We are all individual creatures with unique requirements and capabilities. As such, what is distressing to one may be a joy to another. And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing, we are likely to differ in our physiological and psychological responses to it.

It has been found that most illness is related to unrelieved stress. The rule of thumb is that if we are experiencing stress symptoms, it means that we have gone beyond our optimal stress level in which case we need to reduce the stress in our lives and/or improve our ability to manage it.

Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many techniques for its management to avoid its evil consequences. But one common feature in all the stress-reduction practices is the requirement of a change from the existing mould: changing the source of stress and/or changing our reaction to it.

Techniques to Change the Status Quo:
1. Become aware of the source of stress - the stressors and our emotional and physical reactions to them.
2. Reduce the intensity of our emotional reactions to stress which is triggered by our perception of the situation which may or may not be based on the real position. Evaluate whether we are over reacting or being moderate? Are we putting the situation in perspective?
3. Build physical reserves of strength by proper exercises particularly through Yoga.
4. Maintain emotional reserves through Meditation – which is relaxation with sustained concentration
5. A familiar Western Prayer reads “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to  change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Recognize what we can change and what we cannot. We bring much stress upon ourselves by worrying about and being obsessed with things that we cannot change. We also add to our misery when we fail to change stressful things that we can change. But wisdom lies in knowing the difference between the two. Take some time to think about those stressors in your life. Apply your wisdom to them – specifically to decide whether the stressor is the one that you can change or not. If it is something that you can change, then decide to change it and make a plan to implement that decision.
6. Meditation: Research has shown that meditation is a useful and practical technique for managing stress. Meditation is a good way of relaxing during, and at the end of, a stressful day. It is something one can learn to do oneself.

It is established that these techniques had a very real effect on reducing stress and controlling the fight-or-flight response. Direct effects included slowed heartbeat and breathing, reduced oxygen consumption and increased skin resistance.

The idea behind meditation is to consciously relax your body and focus your thoughts on one thing for a sustained period. This occupies your mind, diverting it from the problems that are putting you in a pressure cooker. It gives your body time to relax and recuperate, and to clear away stress hormones that may have built up. By meditating, you rest your body, allow stress hormones to subside, and occupy your mind so that unpleasant, stressful thoughts do not intrude. In simple words, meditation means unburdening ourselves.

This can be easily understood through a simple story. A lecturer was giving a lecture to his students on stress management. He raised a glass of water and asked the audience “How heavy do you think this glass of water is?” The students’ answers ranged from 20 gm to 500 gm. The lecturer said, “It does not matter on the absolute weight. It depends upon how long you hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it is OK. If I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance. It is the same weight, but the longer I hold it the heavier it becomes. If we carry the burden all the time, sooner or later, we will not be able to carry on, the burden becoming increasingly heavier. What you have to do is to put the glass down, rest for a while before holding it up again.”

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