How do we normally deal with Stress?
Watching endless TV
Withdrawing from friends & family, or conversely, jumping into a frenzied social life to avoid facing problems
Overeating / undereating
Sleeping too much / too little
Drinking alcohol or smoking
Lashing out at others in emotionally or physically violent outbursts
Taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, such as sleeping pills, muscle relaxants or anti-anxiety pills
Taking illegal or unsafe drugs
However, these are ineffective stress solutions and are detrimental in the long term.
Treatment of Stress
Generally, when we go to a doctor for a stress related disease, he will primarily treat the disease with drugs. If it is a mental illness, drugs such as antidepressants or anxiolytics may be prescribed. Also, the patient is given practical advice on how to deal with the underlying stress.
Nonetheless, practical ways of treating stress are increasing as the unrelenting pace of living in a fast, technological, urban society increases.
Some ways to cope with Stress
Deep, Diaphragmatic Breathing
Breathing in nasally and deeply, filling your lungs, allowing only your belly to rise. This heightens mindfulness and awareness, slowing the heartbeat and lowering or stabilizing blood pressure.
Imagining a blissful, comfortable environment, conjuring soothing scenes with specific details and using all senses to engage them. It helps to reach a state of complete relaxation with all the accompanying health benefits.
A passive mental state that is often described as “emptying your mind” of active thoughts. Choose a murti of God or guru, word, sound, prayer or phrase to focus on. It results in lowering of heartbeat, breathing and metabolic rates to levels more characteristic of sleep or a state of hibernation.
Studies show active religious life promotes healthier, longer, satisfying and happier lives. It is noted that there is less hostility and anxiety, lower blood pressure and better life quality among people with strong beliefs. Praying offers solace and comfort by reinforcing positive emotions, stimulating healthy physiological responses. Proper religious practice involves avoiding alcohol, tobacco and other vices that trigger stress.
Positive Thinking and Affirmations
A stream of positive thoughts drowns out negative thoughts. The key to alleviating stress is rehearsing success rather than rehearsing failure.
A state of being aware of the present and living more consciously. Living each moment of your life as it unfolds and remaining rooted in the present.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s injunction of performing daily puja, incorporates all of the above ways of alleviating stress. Besides achieving spiritual upliftment, daily puja leads to physical, mental and emotional enhancement. Puja also incorporates other known stress-alleviating techniques, such as:
Emphasizing the practice of priority in our daily life
Performing prostrations (dandvats) which are akin to Surya Namaskar
Identifying oneself as atma instead of identifying with the various roles that generally cause stress, e.g. businessman, government official, etc.
Inculcating humility, calmness and peace and recognizing Bhagwan as supreme. “When you realize full divinity in this form, you will immediately overcome evil instincts such as passion, anger and the like…”(Vachanamrut, Gadhada III 3).
Understanding Maharaj to be sarva karta (all-doer), thus relinquishing ‘our control’ and surrendering to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Gunatitanand Swami observes: “If someone happens to come rushing in a violent rage, the devotee should still understand that whatever happens is as willed by my Lord. Without his will, nobody can move even a leaf” (Swamini Vato 1.88).
What you eat plays a big role in your overall stress level. A proper vegetarian diet, including fruits, is important.
Improves cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, enhances one’s immune system, and boosts metabolism and mood.
Based on Indian philosophy, an excellent way to develop body awareness and elicit the relaxation response. Yoga has numerous health benefits that are being increasingly recognized by the western world.
Confidants, friends, family and spouses provide the emotional support we need. Satsang, ghar sabha and extended family networks also play an important role.
In a study by Dr Dean Ornish to show reversal of atherosclerosis without surgery or drugs, he put participants on an extremely low fat vegetarian diet, a moderate exercise regime, and a variety of stress-management techniques, including yoga, meditation and group therapy. In the one year follow-up study, 82% of those who participated in these lifestyle changes had reductions in their coronary blockages.
All of the stress alleviating techniques described are preached and practiced by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. At age 93, some physical activities of Pramukh Swami Maharaj have obviously been curtailed, yet he maintains a stable and serene mind, amidst the chaos and excitement of the innumerable activities he oversees.
Swamishri needed to undergo an emergency bypass operation in 1998. He insisted that the procedure be done after 3.00 p.m. even though doctors wanted to operate immediately. The doctors accepted and Swamishri entered the theatre at 3.00 p.m. The operation was successful. Later, on being asked why he had wanted to wait till 3.00 p.m. Swamishri explained that it was to allow Thakorji to have his afternoon rest.
When most would generally be stressed regarding their own health and be considering their own convenience and schedule, Swamishri’s health and convenience is always according to Thakorji’s schedule.
Stress levels ran high in Gujarat, during the terrorist attack on Akshardham in Gandhinagar 2002. Yet, Swamishri demonstrated absolute presence of mind throughout the entire episode despite being responsible for the Sanstha’s and devotees' well-being. Swamishri remained calm, composed, equipoised, never reacting negatively inspite of the grave situation. With emotions being volatile, Swamishri called for and prayed for peace. When the attack was quelled, Swamishri immediately visited the complex and prayed for all those who had lost their lives, including those responsible for the attack. Rather than reacting impulsively, Swamishri remained calm throughout, responding optimally and controlling a highly stressful scenario. Following Bapa’s example in the aftermath, Gujarat and India responded with similar sentiments, imbibing the spirit of calm and peace that Swamishri exudes.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna describes a person with a steady mind (sthitpragna) as one who is equipoised in happiness and misery, in gain and loss and in victory and defeat. Swamishri is a living embodiment in these contemporary times of this absolute Hindu virtue.
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