It is because most stress management strategies do not address the root cause of stress. We are mostly working with the symptoms of stress.
This is the reason why most stress management strategies fail. Because even when the strategy is well researched, well endorsed, and well marketed - that does not change the fact that it is not dealing with the SOURCE of stress. Knowing the source of stress is an important detail to an effective stress management strategy.
The Science of Yoga has long been conscious of the source of stress and how to manage it purposefully. Let us explore it together.
Stress = the speed of the mind
In the science of Yoga the Sanskrit word for stress is "adhi," and stress is defined specifically as the speed of the mind. Can we reflect on our daily experience, on our bigger experience of life, to see how the mind may be the source of our stress?
Many people in my yoga classes come to me to complain about their stress levels. Through my questioning and conversation it always comes to light that the mind is very active. When someone who is stressed tries to fall asleep at night it feels as though the mind will never shut off! The mind feels like a runaway train that we just can't control.
Certainly we have all had the experience of replaying conversations and situations in our mind. We repeat them over and over working ourselves into a frenzy of thinking. We think about all the possible ways it could go differently, we think about all the different things we could say, we imagine all kinds of outcomes. And what is our feeling in all of that? What is the impact that is having our bodies?
Our own minds are the source of all stress in our lives. Our own minds!
Understanding our power of choice
Now let me be very clear. Our life is full of different kinds of challenges and responsibilities. That is a reality. But being stressed with regards to our life is a choice. Your mind reacts to your challenges, and takes on your responsibilities, without knowing how to manage all of them. That leads to uncontrolled thinking and a runaway stream of thoughts. And that is the play of stress with your mind.
You do not realize that all through the day the mind is thinking. There is a continuous train of thought that is going by very fast, and often very unconsciously. I am sure you have had the experience of stopping during the day, realizing that you have been thinking for the past few minutes or even hours, and you can't recall it. Yet your head feels hot, heavy, and stifled. Your breathing is trapped, and the body feels tense. All of this is the impact of our uncontrolled thinking. This is the experience of being heavily stressed.
What we need to do is understand our power of choice and exercise our will power with the mind. By learning to be more conscious of our thoughts and of the speed of our mind we can make a choice to release unnecessary thinking. We need to learn more mental mastery, how to control our own minds better. This should be the core of our stress management strategy.
A holistic stress management strategy
We may try many different health improving activities (and often many unhealthy activities) in an attempt to manage our stress. Read the list below and see if you have tried some or even all of them as a healthy attempt to manage your stress.
All of these are great advice and certainly may have an impact on your stress experience. But can you see why? All of these ultimately have some kind of influence on the mind.
Exercising well will release excess nervous energy from the mind and give you a good hormonal balance. Resting appropriately will help the mind have clarity. Diet affects the functioning and experience of mind. Leisure is sorely needed to help the mind find balance. And discipline directly affects will power and the mind.
These are some simple and direct ways you can begin managing your mind. In the long run it will influence the stress levels. But for some people they may be doing many of these things "right" yet still experience a high level of stress that is negatively influencing them. Those people will need a stronger intervention.
The incredible power of Yoga
Yoga is about much more than physical exercise. It is a very sophisticated practice that can help us to master our minds - because the mind is seen as our greatest resource in Yoga.
Through mastering our minds, we are also managing our experience of stress. As we learnt earlier stress is the speed of the mind. If we are able to slow down the mind and control our thoughts, then we experience lower levels of stress.
This is what most stress management strategies miss - a plan for retraining and managing the mind. This is also why people have incredible results with managing stress using Yoga. There have been quite a few studies done recently that show the positive effect of yoga on our stress experience.
I have also had many students report that their quality of life changed dramatically when they started the practice of Yoga. They tell me that they sleep better, feel more in control of their minds and emotions, and feel less stressed - even when big life challenges turn up.
Yoga as a stress management tool
I have been continuously impressed by the effectiveness of yoga in managing my personal stress and positively influencing the lives of those exploring the practice. Because of this I feel inspired to share the practice of yoga and to tackle the issue of stress in our society head on. This article is just the first of my initiative to raise the caliber of stress management strategies for the benefit of our community.
As part of my bigger plan for stress management in our community I have planned a series of articles, written a short report, and planned an incredible event called Stronger than Stress.
I hope that you will stay tuned with me and choose to be part of this incredible initiative. You can download the report (for free!) below by signing up for my event launch email list. Keep connected to find out more about my upcoming event.
Article up next: How to find time to deal with stress (when you are already working 40+ hours and have daily responsibilities).
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