From Stress Relief to Easing Method of Buddhism

1. Preface
2. Do you feel stressed?
3. Relationship between stress and health
4. What kinds of people are prone to feel stressed?
5. What is stress?
6. Positive influence of stress
7. Definition of stress in Buddhism
8. Easy methods of releasing stress (appendix: Easing Gong)

Preface
Primitive people felt stressed while facing changes, but it only happened when their lives were threatened, such as fighting against beasts, and moving for natural catastrophe, climate change and food supply.

Let’s look back upon modern life. Lives are not threatened, but there is always much stress, which is not easy to resist. Along with the fast transformation of social structure, multi-blended value system, complicated human relationship and increasingly changing technological knowledge make many modern people exhausted while racing with time, physical strength, workload, new knowledge and technology. Almost every level of life is changing ceaselessly: job, family, relatives, and society. Life is becoming more and more complex, and all kinds of changes come like ruthless tides. The only present brought by changes is stress: more crowded environment, more choices and temptations, higher requirements, and faster footsteps.

Individuals must face and try to adapt themselves to the new living conditions—like an endless relation between supply and demand. The rising telecommunicating technology, such as mobile and internet, fails to help people save time and make life easier, but prolongs work hours and influences family life. In the evening coming back home, one has to check the voice mailbox and emails. One does not know why life is so busy and for what one must hurry, but everybody is living like this. One has no idea how to kill time if one does not keep life so busy. Actually facing tension and busyness every day, and so many trifles day by day, one feels too tired, and itches to get more ability to keep the mess in order.

The routine workload, different roles, personal emotional problems and unexpected accidents make many people say to each other, “So heavy stresses!”

Do you feel stressed?
Please look back, are there following phenomena in your life?

No enough time to relax yourself, thinking about work all day, too much work to handle with, always urged by time, always hurrying up, and being irritable. Take being late as an example: stuck in the traffic, one is anxiously waiting for the traffic light to change green. With eyes shifting from left to right, one thinks to oneself: when the light will change? As time passing by second by second, heartbeat and blood pressure are rising. Always driving beyond the speed limit, never giving way to foot passengers, grasping any chance to rush, taking no notice of yellow and even red lights, walking extremely fast, often doing several things simultaneously, seldom concentrating on meal, speaking fast like a machine-gun, no patience to listen to others and interrupting others’ words.

One often cannot pay attention and think flexibly. Memory and solving-problem ability are weakened. It is easy for accidents to happen.

One is easily irritated. While frustrated, one will lose patience and burst into anger even for small trifles.

One feels tired of work and depressed. Suffering from insomnia, one does not go to bed until feeling exhausted. Sometimes one thinks too much in bed and is hard to fall asleep, so one has to take sleeping pills. Quality of sleep is very bad, with excessive dreams. One always feels lack of rest, and is reluctant to get up in the morning.

One is worried about others opinions towards oneself. One always feels no appreciation from others. One demands too much from oneself, so one feels knackered,
Self-contemptuous, melancholy, depressible and even out of control.

One worries about economical conditions.

One needs cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, snacks, playing electronic games, surfing the internet and watching TV etc. to control uneasiness. Frequency and intensity of headache are increasing, caused by non-physical factors. Muscles of head, neck, shoulders and back become tightened. Something is wrong with the digestive system, such as gastric ulcer. Heartbeat becomes faster and chest aches.

If three or four of the above symptoms continuously appear for a period of time (more than one month), and one always feels something wrong with the body, and the doctor cannot find pathogeny or curative effect is not good, the reason may be too much stress. One should be on alert because that is prone to be a disease named extensive anxiety.

In fact, of the ten big reasons for death in Taiwan, heart disease, hypertension and apoplexy are related with heart and blood vessel burden, created by long-term stress. Heart doctors notice that heart disease sufferers seem to be more anxious than other patients, so they begin a series of studies. They find the relationship between psychological stress and heart disease. Those who are urgent, aggressive and highly competitive have much more chances to suffer from coronary artery heart diseases, seven times of other people, and the probability of suddenly bursting out heart disease is twice of other people.

What kinds of people are prone to feel stressed?
Those who never refuse and always pursue perfection are prone to feel stressed. Longing for perfection, one asks oneself to make everything perfect, no matter big events or small trifles. If there is no enough time to manage so many things, one will feel stressed and be very anxious, then one will doubt the ability of oneself, and want to do better, thus a vicious circle is formed, and the result will be worse.

Those who are push-and-go also easily feel stressed. They do everything by themselves because of distrust on others, or they are afraid to bother others. They unconsciously hope to be almighty, so they feel far more toilsome than others.

This group of people is called Class A. They walk fast; eat fast, impatient of others’ slow actions and always interrupting others.

Citizens with fast living rhythm also easily suffer from heart disease. Cities with fast pace attract and create many people of Class A. Relationship between fast pace and heart disease is even closer than that between character and heart disease.

Many People Turning to Psychological Clinics
Xu Haochong, a psychological doctor of Taiwan Ren Ai Hospital, says that a lot of middle-aged women have devoted all their time to the family. Although they complain about headache, they feel no stress. Xu Haochong says that is because they have changed social expectations towards women into their own inner drives. They think they should make it, so they require themselves to make it. They do not understand what is wrong. They only feel no enough time.

Xu Haochong is amazed how a person can live such a life completely devoted to the company, even sleeping in the company. Imagine, after twelve hours work, when you feel too tired and delay an important matter of the company, will the company forgive you? Is the director going to say, “Never mind. You have been working for twelve hours and too tired. The company’s time and money lost by you are nothing at all. I do not blame you, because you have your own difficulties.” Will the boss be so considerate? Of course not. No one will pay attention to how long you have spent in your work. No excuse will be considered. Many people are working all the time, never pause. Now please have a pause, and ask yourself whether the following is just your life. Do you feel yourself always present at working places? Are there fax and mobile keeping in touch with you at any moment? Have you once enjoyed your vacation? Have you ever put down your job and had a good rest? Many people have deeply relapsed into the vicious circle and have no ability to get out. They continuously over expend their brain and physical strength in tension, and do not give themselves a chance to recover. At last they feel tired both mentally and physically, depressed and downcast.

The problem of outstanding persons is not simply high-intensified and overtime work. The real pain of outstanding persons is their never giving up and never debasing standards. Some become numb in pain, while the others go mad in pain.

Outstanding persons always undertake most responsibilities of society. This kind of responsibility has become an inner drive of them, a standard pole used to examining themselves. Once there is crash between ideal and reality, outstanding persons’ spirit will be directly hurt. That is confirmed by psychologists. American psychologists say that symptoms of blahs, anxiety, insomnia and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder often attack those ambitious, creative and careful people.

“Nowadays, in some particular callings, such as IT professionals, media practitioners, famous university teachers and fast-developing enterprise employees, the biggest problem is stress.” said Doctor ZHANG Xichao, Chief Consultant of Beijing Yipusi Enterprise Consulting Company. This stress from work attacks their body, mind, social relationship and family life, just like domino effect.

One should maintain a status: best, best, forever best. That’s what the outstanding persons believe. Great social attention is a kind of drive as well as a kind of stress.

“It is relatively easy for a person to rise from one meter to 5,000 meters’ height, but it is so hard to rise from 5,000 meters to 7,000 meters. That is the difficulty of outstanding people.” said a middle-level manager of a company.

Crisis seems to have consulted with each other to come together. When you feel something wrong with your health, you may suddenly find marital problems at the same time working all day and all night, you have lost ways to communicate with your wife. Perhaps you will also find your children meet some trouble. Gradually you have been away from your family, and your children have failed to grow up smoothly for lack of your concern. Additionally, you may realize that you haven maintained good relationship with your colleagues, and you have lost friends because of your work. At last, your confidence is completely destroyed, confidence towards your health, towards everything.

In the opinions of many outstanding persons, there is an intangible hand in society, or an invisible ruler, forcing and measuring. Your social position means stress and anxiety of the same level. “I really care about others’ point of view towards my life quality, because that signifies my professional life. I also care about others’ point of view upon my working result, for that is the evaluation of my ability. Sima Guang once said, ‘It’s easy to go from frugality to luxury, while it’s hard to go from luxury to frugality.” The standard is there, and you cannot come down. That is not simple material, but a standard of everything.” “The last taboo is not sex, not bibulosity, not drugs, but professional stress.” US magazine “Wealth” talks about modern society’s damage upon people in this way. It is said that UK has listed the symptoms of psychological diseases as the second biggest industrial injury, but in China, the symptoms are usually thought to be led by individual personality and character.

Pressure: power borne by unit area, also called pressure intensity.
Stress: status of tension and uneasiness when an individual feels threatened physically or psychologically. This status makes people feel unhappy or pain.

Relationship between stress and health
Stress is not only an intangible killer latent in deep mind, but also has far-reaching and unfathomable influence. Your body’s reaction towards stress crisis probably creates long-term effects, making the body more weak and whacked. Thus many diseases take place.

Sympathetic nerve incretion makes heart beat faster and bloodstream increase. If sympathetic nerve keeps over excited for a long time, it will first influence heart blood vessels. Too much sympathetic nerve incretion will make blood pressure and serum cholesterol increase under pressure, and blood turns thicker and easier to choke, thus high blood pressure and heart blood vessel diseases will probably take place. Medicinal study also proves that if sympathetic nerve is over excited, arrhythmia, apoplexy and coronary artery heart disease will take place. In addition, since pressure reduces the number of T-lymphatic bacteria, the immune system will not work well, leading hyper susceptibility, asthma, even cancer. Muscle catatonia led by stress is often held as the main reason for catatonic headache, backache, neck ache and shoulder ache. Stress may probably lead obvious loss of weight, heart-throb, chest tightness, insomnia, diarrhea, no appetite, impotence, endocrinopathy, hyperthyroidism, erythromelalgia, gout, muscle catatonia, gastric ulcer, even cancer. Take diabetes as an example. Some people engorge to deal with stress and seek satisfaction, only resulting in blood sugar rising high. What’s frightening, the invasion process is so unnoticeable that once the disease breaks out, people are often unprepared.

In the USA, about 75% to 90% patients turn to doctors because of stress. People pay at least several hundred billion dollars every year for stress-related matters, such as absence, diseases, personnel change, low efficiency and death from overtiredness. Some studies point out that around 50% to 80% of diseases are related to stress, such as gastric ulcer, high blood pressure, migraine, asthma, hyper susceptibility, cancer and sterility. In Taiwan, at least 30% people feel unwell because of too much stress, and doctors call that “mind-physical disease”, but most of the patients go to offices of internal medicine, neural medicine and heart medicine to treat their headache, insomnia, gastric ulcer and chest tightness etc., other than pay attention to psychological stress.

Positive influence of stress: warning function
Stress often gives us warnings through our bodies and emotions. Sometimes our body longs for more care, and sometimes life needs to be rearranged. Cautiousness and dread produced by these warnings ask us to stop for a rest, to pay attention to the coming crisis, to explore body and mind of ourselves, and to rearrange our future. This is a good chance to accelerate our growing up, even to save our life.

Definition of stress in Buddhism
Stress is the power (coming from stressor) borne on unit area (mind).

Stressor is what brings stress. Besides uncontrollable changes from outside, the main stressor is one self’s basic worries and side worries.

Six basic worries: one greed, two anger, three obsessions, four prides, five suspicions, six dishonesty.

Twenty side worries: one irritation, two hatred, three annoyance, four overturn, five lie, six flattery, seven priggism, eight harm, nine jealousy, ten meanness, eleven shamelessness, twelve no regret, thirteen no trust, fourteen nonfeasance, fifteen indulgence, sixteen being befuddled, seventeen indecency, eighteen disappointment, nineteen unwiseness, twenty mess.
Hereinto thirteen, eighteen, nineteen and twenty just mean being busy and impetuous, some general troubles.

Unit area bearing power is just mental efforts and intelligence. Mental efforts mean bearing ability, including will power and endurance. Intelligence means choice and action made according to rational thinking.

Mind=bearing ability, will power, endurance, attention, awareness=calmness
Wisdom=brightness, insight, realization, thinking, choice and judgment=intelligence
Sometimes stressor is just the fixed points of view of oneself, no other reasons. Many psychological stresses are because we refuse to face reality and we are reluctant to accept truth of life.

From the angle of Buddhism, stress is by no means coming from outside, but mostly produced by oneself. Although we understand the theory of uncertainty, psychologically we have a rooted abhor towards it. What we want is immutability, forever, unchangeable safety. We believe that we can control external environment and get immutability.

Stresses come from emotions and desires produced by worries. Most people want to strengthen their will of controlling external environment and confronting uncertainty, thus on the one hand they “long for more what they want, on the other hand are afraid to lose what they have got”.
Since the mind and wisdom are not strong enough to bear power, stresses will be formed. At the same time lack of strong mind and wisdom arouses worries, and brings new stressor. In such a vicious circle, stress is sure to be bigger and bigger.

Reactions towards stress
When changes take place, we often blame the external environment, and forget that it is important to change our own reactions. In fact, when stress comes, it will not take our lives, but if we do not give appropriate reactions, it may make us exhausted. Most people emotionally give negative inertial reactions, other than think rationally and make right choices.
Facing stress, people usually choose defense or escape. Psychologist Cannon first put forward the word “stress” in 1925, saying that when people feel dangerous or threatened, people are prone to “fight” or “escape”. That is so-called fight-escape theory.

However, neither fight nor escape is appropriate reaction. Defense, oppression and escape, these general reactions make people staying in worse emotions for a long time, such as worries, annoyance, distress, anger or indifference. People cannot effectively adapt themselves to various kinds of changes, and a vicious circle is formed. We should know that temporary solutions cannot help to avoid long-term failure. Those behaviors that can best satisfy our temporary desire usually do the most serious harm to health, happiness and success in a long period of time. Anytime we can make choices. Actually we can employ our sense to help endure temporary maladjustment, in order to get long-term interests in return.

There are more adversities than fortunes in life. As Buddhists, we should not get worried and complain while facing difficulties. We should calm down and avoid emotional impulsion, trying to hold Buddhist faith. If we employ worldly intrigues to change the external environment, maybe we can get the temporary success, but finally our Buddhist faith will be destroyed. Everything will flow, that is the truth of the world. Those who can accept this reality are able to face what happens calmly. Otherwise, sensitive and quickly-reacted persons cannot help bursting into strong emotions, which will waste more energy with no correct judgment. Encountering any change, one should avoid immediate reflective reaction. One should try to stop and find the best solution.

The best solution is Buddhism: turning back to oneself. The Buddhist easing method is not quick to learn, so in the following let me briefly introduce some simple items.
~ To be Continued ~

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