We have all had our share of stress..
I always was cynical towards people who complained of experiencing misfortunes. I used to say that they do not have a positive attitude and whatever they anticipate comes to pass. “As a man thinketh, so is he.”
But now I think differently. Some things can be learned only by experience. Some may be pleasant and some unpleasant. But it is necessary to have both good and bad experiences.
Last year we lost our house in a fire. It was a terrible loss because the property was under insured. My wife and some of my friends questioned me as to why this disaster should happen to me, a positive person. I myself did not know why! But I knew one thing. Everything that happens to me happens for good. What good it will be and when it will be, I had no idea. I will have to wait and recognize the good when it comes and be thankful for it.
Since the house that burned down was a single family home in a duplex zone, we decided to build a duplex. When we submitted the plan to City Hall, our architect found that we could construct a three story triplex. So now we have a three story triplex which gives a beautiful view of the ocean and mountains. Freighters and cruise ships from all over the world anchor in front of our house, and sea birds and eagles provide us with endless entertainment. We also have an income from the other two portions of our house. Thus, the fire was a blessing in disguise.
If the fire had gutted less than 70% of the house, we would have had to repair the damage and would not be permitted to demolish the house and build a new one. The fire brigade was a little slow to respond and that resulted in more than 70% of the house being burned. That little delay helped us, though that was not the intention of the fire brigade
Needless to say, during this time we suffered a lot of stress.
All stress is created by mind and the ability to overcome stress is also created by mind. Some events can create very great stress and calamity.
First, let us look at some of the damaging consequences of stress. An actual incident was narrated by Father Jerome Morella de Sorento, an Italian missionary in the Congo. A young man spent a night with his friend. According to the tribal custom young men are prohibited from eating wild hen for breakfast. Unknown to the visitor the host prepared a wild hen and served for breakfast. When the guest enquired, the host said that it was not a wild hen. A few years later the two met again. Again the host prepared a wild hen for breakfast. Again the guest asked if it was a wild hen and the host replied “Yes.” The guest refused to eat. The friend laughed and said why should you refuse to eat it now when you were perfectly happy to eat it last time you came. As soon as the guest realized that the breakfast that he ate a few years back was wild hen, he began to tremble violently and was dead in 24 hours.
What was the cause of his death? Was it the violation of the tribal custom? It could not have been for he did not eat the hen that morning and when he violated the custom few years before, nothing ill happened. It was the stress of the realization of his violating the tribal custom
a few years back.
Another example illustrating the deadly consequences of stress was written by Dr. John K.Williams, a member of the Board of the National Association for Mental Health. He wrote in his book, “The Wisdom Of Your Subconscious Mind”, that a physician was given permission to experiment on a criminal sentenced to death. The prisoner was blind-folded and told that he would be painlessly bled to death instead of going through the torture of hanging. He was placed on a table. The Physician made a small incision on his hand but not deep enough to cause any bleeding and a small stream of running water was allowed to trickle into a bowl as if blood were trickling form the prisoner’s hand. The physician made suggestions to the effect that he was bleeding to death. In a short time the prisoner died showing all symptoms of cerebral anemia. though he never lost any blood. Here again death was the result of stress created by his mind.
Dr. Holmes and Dr. Rahe of the University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, interviewed many sick people and found that their ailment could be related to stress they had suffered during the two previous years. They came up with a check list of 43 items to which they gave numerical values. For instance:
For death of a spouse they gave 100 points
personal injury or illness 50
trouble with the boss 23
They found that if our score in one year is over 300 points, we have a 90% chance of falling seriously ill during the next few years. Homes-Rahe test is widely used for statistical analysis of the health of army personnel in the U.S.
It is now an admitted fact that 50% to 80% of all diseases are psychosomatic. Many cases of cancer are attributable to social stress. Ulcers, high blood pressure, arthritis, chronic back pain, skin disorders, headaches, allergies, upset stomachs, asthma, hay fever, impotence, insomnia, diabetes and alcoholism are considered to be stress related.
High school football players from families having stress problems are likely to suffer more serious injuries than those from other families.
But by anticipation we invite accidents to happen. Therefore, when stress comes, recognize the stress but realize and be confident that some good is coming and look out for that good that is coming.
When we cultivate this habit, stress will always end up as a benefit. Try it, expect it and see that it happens every time
In addition to worries about health and petty things, we have a long list of “what if’s”. For example, “What if my house is robbed when I am away?” You know the story of the woman who had 23 padlocks and 20 dogs to guard her for she feared she would be robbed, raped, and murdered. She spent sleepless nights in fear and trembling.
Some of us worry about what others think about us. If we knew how little they thought about us, if ever they did, we would get over that worry in a hurry.
The interesting fact is that though worry is the cause of so much stress, worry can be imaginary.
40% of your worries may never happen
30% of your worries are about events that have already happened and nothing can be done about them
10% of your worries are about petty things
12% of your worries are about your health or diet, your weight, etc. and will only aggravate the situation.
There is the story of the hypochondriac who went to see his doctor. When the hypochondriac was describing his imaginary diseases, the doctor was making short notes. The doctor was called away to answer a phone call. When the doctor was away, the hypochondriac peeked at the notes and saw the letters “SOB”. He was very angry. When the doctor returned, the hypochondriac questioned him as to how dare he make such remarks about him. The doctor replied “First of all, my notes are my personal property and you should not have looked at them. Secondly the letters “SOB” stand for short of breath and not what you think.
All stress is not bad. Medical investigation has concluded that under-stress can cause depression, indigestion, overeating, chronic irritability, fatigue, inability to concentrate, and many more undesirable habits. Too much or too little is not good.
Stress can be useful and necessary. If there is no stress on the strings, not a sound could be coaxed from the most beautiful Stradivarius and the highly prized diamond watch will not run for one minute but for the stress on its spring.
Too much tension, the strings of the violin and springs of the watch will snap and too little will make them equally useless.
Some stress is beneficial by stimulating and strengthening us. What matters is not the event which creates the worry but how we view the event. An event that causes constant worry to one can be a very useful challenge to another.
When we look at the lives of great people, we find that their greatness depended upon their ability to overcome the tragic events in their lives and to turn them into events of blessings.
St Paul wrote the epistles in prison. Charles Kettering broke his hand while cranking an automobile and hence he invented the self starter. He had a sign in his laboratory, “Do not bring me your successes, they weaken me. Bring me your problems, they strengthen me.”
As a boy, Edison worked as a candy butcher on the train between Port Huron and Detroit. One day he was late for the train and was running along to get on board. The conductor literally pulled him aboard by his ears. His eardrums were damaged and he lost 90% of his hearing. Edison claimed that his deafness helped him in that he could hear the loud ticking of the telegraph ticker amidst the chattering by people which he could not hear. This deafness led him into the unexplored field of sound and its transmission. He patented 1100 inventions in the fields of sound and its transmission, photography, and electricity before he died in 1931 at the age of 90.
When we are under stress, our awareness, our senses, and our mind are sharpened. We all know many people who work best under stress. But they do not permit stress to create anxiety in them.
There are many ways to deal with stress. Some of them are simple and are intended to get our minds off the object of stress. Some therapists recommend transient remedies such as a warm bath, going for a walk, cutting the grass, baking bread, writing down your peeves, finding out what we are afraid of and so on. .
Getting our mind off the issue is good not only for stress but also in dealing with many other vexatious problems.
Some other common ways of combatting stress are to take a couple of tranquilizers, mix an alcoholic drink, smoke pot, eat, watch television, go to bed and cry, take it out on our dear ones but these responses will only land us in greater trouble.
There are three better methods by which we will be able to overcome stress.
The first method is to forgive yourself for the past mistakes you think you made. There are many people who cannot get rid of their guilty feelings over such mistakes.
The famous writer, Guy de Maupassant wrote a story entitled “A Piece of String.” It is the story of a man who saw a string on a busy market place. He bent down and picked it up thinking he could use it. He was accused of picking up a lost wallet and was arrested and put in prison. Fortunately, the wallet was found the next day. This man could not get over the insult and indignities he suffered. He brooded over it day and night. The piece of string had become an obsession. He neglected his work and went from person to person complaining of how he had been wrongly arrested and imprisoned. He died of a broken heart mumbling “A piece of string.”
The piece of string became an obsession because he was finding fault with himself for having picked up the piece of string. If he had focussed on the person who accused him and forgiven him, the obsession would not have persisted, for he would have had to forget the offence and forgive the offender.
A wise man once said that when a person undresses for bed at night, he should also undress his mind from the mistakes and failures of the day. The art of forgetting is a virtue we ought to acquire.
Second method to eliminate stress is forgiveness of the offender. Forgive others for the offenses they have committed against you. We read in the Gospel “Forgive if ye have ought against any.” Some people say, “I can forgive but I cannot forget.” Henry Ward Beecher, the famous American preacher at Brooklyn, New York, said “Such a statement is another way of saying that I will not forgive.”
Benjamin Franklin said, “It is the lot of man to suffer. It is also his fortune to forget.” and we forget because we must and not because we will.
Little vicious minds abound with anger and revenge and are incapable of feeling the pleasure of forgiving their enemies. You will experience the release of strain, the relaxation of body and mind when you forgive a person. You have no idea what great treasure lies in store for you until you experience it. For your own sake, for your own peace of mind, for your own health, for your own joy, learn to forgive.
The third method is to control our brain waves. Learning to control our brain waves will bring great joy and pleasure . Meditation and yoga are the initial methods for learning to control brain waves. Biofeedback also enables a person to control brain waves and thereby gain control over stress.
Finally, when we search earnestly for the purpose of our lives and the Creator’s purpose in creating the universe, with all the living beings with human beings in the top rung, with the highest power of deduction and induction among all, we will realize that the Creator was looking for companionship. The stresses we experience throughout our lives are challenges to make us strong and fitting companions for the Creator.