Is Stress Your Constant Companion?


Stress. Stress Management. Being stressed out. For so many of us, these words are part of our daily vocabulary. We find ourselves stressed out by anything and everything, constantly anxious and about to explode.

Why? Does it have to be this way? Can we ever find peace of mind or are we doomed to live a life of chaos?

According to Buddhist psychology, the answer is no, it doesn't have to be this way, and yes, we CAN find peace of mind. Stress is the result of cognitive appraisal: according to appraisal theory, stress occurs when we evaluate a situation as being something we can't manage or handle. The key here is in the evaluation: stress is inextricably linked to perception. If I assess a certain event as being stressful, then I will experience stress (this is literally the power of our minds and of thinking).

Buddhism teaches us how to shift our perception, quiet our minds and stay centered. Through techniques such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga, we can learn how to relate to our thoughts differently. Rather than living mindlessly, ready to activate the "panic" button and get caught in what Buddhist psychologist Tara Brach calls a "limbic hijack", we can pause, breathe and step back from our train of thought.

So the next time you're feeling stressed out, remember that you have the power to perceive your situation differently...and that can make all the difference.