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Toward a New Definition of Stress

We live in stressful times. We are holding down two or more jobs. We are putting up with heavy job loads and unreasonable demands. We are swallowing outrage and frustration with unfair situations and irrational superiors because we cannot afford to be laid off or fired. Or we have already been laid off and we are struggling to find another job. Or we have given up and are coping with unemployment. Outside strains like these are called stressors. Stressors are the barely-tolerable pressures that bring us unhappiness and, eventually, disease. Some people hardly seem to be affected by stressors. They maintain a sense of perspective and a sense of humor. They remain calm in the midst of adversity and catastrophe. Other people are overwhelmed by a lesser number and intensity of stressors and slide downhill, losing relationships, jobs, and eventually their mental and physical health. What makes the difference?

Inner Strength
While it may seem that our problems are entirely the result of the enormous stressors in our lives, our mental balance and the degree of functioning of our nervous system actually determine how we feel and respond, and that is far more important. Which is better: to be exposed to few stressors but be overwhelmed by them, or to be exposed to many stessors and respond with grace and humor? Mental balance, normal functioning of the nervous system, grace, and good humor are all aspects of natural inner strength. The important question is why so many of us don't have the degree of inner strength that would protect us from stressors and would allow us to express our inner creativity and intelligence fully, resulting in a happy, productive, successful, and fulfilled life. If inner strength is natural and normal for some people, what limits it for others? What causes inner weakness?

Stress: The Stored Effects of Overloads

Stressors can cause overloads. Examples include the physical and mental trauma of living through a car crash, enduring the pressure of many or difficult jobs, or even receiving a sudden pleasant shock, such as of unexpectedly winning a lottery, inheriting a fortune, or catching sight of a beautiful sunset. The fact that we can relive these experiences in dreams and that they elevate our fight-or-flight hormones shows that they have a negative long-term effect on our health and happiness. Stress is the response of the nervous system to stressors that are too large to handle. It is the internalized result of external overloads. It consists of stored abnormalities that serve to protect us from repeated exposure to the same overloads by limiting our functioning. An analogy may help make this clear. Consider modern buildings. They are protected from electrical fire by a system of separate circuits, each protected by ts own circuit breaker that interrupts the current in the circuit whenever there is an electrical overload, whether caused by using too many appliances or by a short-circuit. In the absence of circuit breakers, the intense heat caused by the high current could result in serious fire. If one or two breakers are tripped, the building still functions. One can run an extension cord from an outlet that is still working to where one needs it. It's not convenient, but it's much better than having just one breaker to protect the whole building. Like a modern building, we hypothesize that the human nervous system has a distributed "graceful degradation" mechanism that protects it from serious damage when it is overloaded. While we haven't as yet identified it in terms of anatomy or biochemistry, researchers can observe the very real negative physiological and mental effects of stressors on people over time, using measurable effects such as reaction time, anxiety, trust, anger, memory, creativity, problem solving, skin resistance, EEG, blood pressure, and blood chemistry, among others.

The Elimination of Stress

The only way to correct dead circuits in the electrical system of a building is to remove any problems like short circuits and too many appliances plugged into a power outlet, then go to the breaker panel and reset all the tripped circuit breakers. The natural way (actually, the only way) to eliminate limitations in the human nervous system (our stresses) is to improve our life by removing at least the worst of the stressors (for example, by getting treatment for a medical condition), then expose the nervous system to deep rest. As you can see, this is a nice parallel between how an electrical system works in a building and how the nervous system works in the human body. We know that the deep rest we gain through sleep is refreshing; there is no doubt that it helps eliminate stress. But it is clearly not enough to prevent the loss of creativity, intelligence, and joy that seems to plague many of us as we grow older. If we experience a traumatic experience, we may have nightmares for years before sleep finally dissolves the resulting stress.

What we need is a natural method of gaining deep rest that is much more efficient, because the rest is deeper. Does such a method exist? The answer is yes, and it's called transcending.

The Recent History of Transcending

About 55 years ago, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, at the time a secretary and disciple of a great spiritual leader in India (Brahmananda Saraswati), was asked to travel throughout the world, sharing the ancient Vedic knowledge of effortless transcending with everyone who would come and listen. While this knowledge is readily available through other sources, Maharishi was the first to cast it in terms easily understandable by any modern citizen of the world. What emerged from this wildly successful journey was the formulation of Transcendental Meditation, a seven-step course of personal instruction taught in TM centers throughout the world. Scientific researchers were immediately attracted to this "new" technique as a result of their personal experiences and observations, and their many highquality research projects generated remarkable results that were published in over one hundred peer-reviewed scientific journals. We have learned from these studies that TMgenerates a broadly beneficial and unique state of physiology that has been called "restful alertness", a state of rest that is much deeper than sleep. More accurately, it teaches a simple, effortless, and natural technique called transcending, which quickly reduces the metabolic activity of the body, while very gently keeping the mind alert. But Transcendental Meditation, fortunately, holds no monopoly on this natural technique. NSR teaches apparently the identical effortless mental technique by using completely different instructional methods (see the details below). Our research studies replicate many of the Transcendental Meditation results, and our unsolicited testimonials describe much the same sorts of results.

Transcending in Natural Stress Relief

In only 15 minutes of practice twice a day, stresses that were incurred many years ago and that have prevented our full functioning are automatically released. Not only that, but the unhappiness, frustration, or tiredness resulting from our activities yesterday and today are washed away, leaving us relaxed and energized. With the regular practice of NSR over a period of months and years, ever deeper stresses are released, continuously providing the possibility of releasing yet deeper stresses. It's like peeling layers from an onion. Eventually, stresses of which we were not even aware (because we were so used to them) finally dissolve, giving us the flexibility and virtual immunity to stressors that is natural and spontaneous in a fully functioning nervous system.

This is the great value of eliminating stress. And anyone can do it easily and effectively by learning NSR. See Also: The Wikipedia article on Stress

Relationship with the Transcendental Meditation Program

As described in detail above, Natural Stress Relief was developed to provide an inexpensive alternative to TM, that focuses on reducing stress, having low course prices, providing effective support, and omitting the unnecessary mysticism promoted by the TM organizations. The heart of NSR is the technique known as transcending. As explained in detail at this link, transcending is a unique practice leading to a unique state of consciousness. Whether taught by the NSR or TMorganizations, transcending is a remarkably effective method for producing a state of rest much deeper than sleep. This means that much deeper stresses can be dissolved. The lawyers for TM have asked us to state that these two systems of instruction are not in any way directly associated; they are in fact taught by completely different, unrelated, and indeed competitive organizations: see our comparison between these two systems of instruction. In the American spirit of improvement through competition we are proud and happy to offer the world a more attractive alternative to TM for practical stress reduction and the efficient and effective development of self-actualization.

20 Ways to Eliminate Stress From Your Life

You often see articles on ways to unwind and relax after a stressful day, which I always find useful, but for me the most important advice would be to get to the source of the problem, and cut stress out before it even happens. By careful editing of your life, and changing certain habits, you can eliminate most (not all) sources of stress in your life. I dont believe that a stress-free life is possible. Stress is a response to challenges in life, and a life without challenges is too boring to contemplate. However, I do believe that most of the stress in our lives is unnecessary, and that it can be eliminated by taking some simple (and some not-so-simple) steps. It cant be accomplished overnight Ive been eliminating stressors in my life for awhile now, and Im still not done. But I think its a worthwhile goal. Lets first take a look at an example its a little extreme, but it exemplifies the typical stressors in peoples lives. Lets say Fred gets up in the morning, waking up late, and now has to rush to get ready. Hes so rushed that he spills his coffee on his shirt and has

to change, a nicks himself shaving. He heads out the door and then has to go back in the house because he forgot his wallet. He gets in the car and realizes he forgot his keys. Now hes on the way in to work and is in the middle of rush-hour traffic and his temper starts to flare after someone cuts him off. Hes honking at people, cursing, and arrives to work late and in a bad mood. He snaps at someone and is surly all morning. His desk is covered in piles of paper, and he cant find that report he needs to work on. His inbox is overflowing and his email notification is going off, and he sees he has 36 messages to respond to. He knows hes late on two projects and his boss isnt happy. Hes got to finish 5 tasks before the 11 a.m. meeting, and hes got meetings all afternoon. You get the idea. His day does not go well, and he hits rush-hour traffic on the way home. He gets home late, exhausted, completely stressed, his mind still on his late and asyet uncompleted projects, his still-full inbox and email inbox, and all the stuff piling up that he has to work on tomorrow. The house is a mess and he snaps at his family. His kids have not put things away exactly where he told them to put them away, so he begins to yell at them. He has a quick, greasy dinner in front of the TV and zones out before falling asleep late. Again, this is a bit extreme, but you can see through this illustration some of the things that stress people out. There are many more, of course, and I wont cover all of them here. But these sources of stress can be eliminated with a little thought. Heres how: 1. Identify stressors. This is the most important step of all, as identifying the things that stress you out in your life is the first step towards eliminating them. Take 10 minutes to think about what stresses you out during the day. What weekly occurrences stress you out? What people, activities, things cause stress in your life? Make a Top 10 list, and see which of them can be eliminated, and start to weed them out. For those that cant, find ways to make them less stressful. 2. Eliminate unnecessary commitments. I did a post on editing your commitments before apply those concepts here. We all have many commitments in our life, starting with work but also including commitments related to kids, our spouses, things to do at home, other family, civic, side work, religious, hobbies, online activities and more. Consider each of them, the amount of stress they provide, and the value you get out of them. Edit brutally, and take steps today to remove the ones that stress you out the most. 3. Procrastination. We all do this, of course. But allowing stuff to pile up will stress us out. Find ways to take care of stuff now (form a Do It Now habit) and keep your inbox and desk clear. See 20 Procrastination Hacks for more ideas. 4. Disorganization. Were all disorganized to some extent. Even if weve organized something, and created a great system for keeping it that way, things tend to move towards chaos over time. But disorganization stresses us out, in terms of visual clutter, and in making it difficult to find stuff we need. Take time to get things in

your life organized, starting with your desk and the papers in your home, and moving on to other areas. 5. Late. Being late always stresses us out. We have to rush to get ready, rush to get there, and stress out the whole time about looking bad and being late. Learn the habit of being early, and this stress disappears. Make a conscious effort to start getting ready earlier, and to leave earlier. This also makes driving less stressful. Time yourself to see how long it actually takes to get ready, and how long it actually takes to get somewhere. Youve probably been underestimating these times. Once you know these times, you can plan backwards so that you show up 10 minutes early each time. Its a good feeling. 6. Controlling. We are not the Master of this Universe. I know we sometimes wish we were, but acting as if we are is a sure way to get stressed out. Trying to control situations and people cannot work, and only serves to increase our anxiety when it doesnt work. Learn to let go, and accept the way that other people do things, and accept what happens in different situations. The only thing you can control is yourself work on that before you consider trying to control the world. Also learn to separate yourself from tasks and to delegate them. Learning to let go of our need to control others and the situations around us is a major step towards eliminating stress. 7. Multitasking. Having multiple tasks going on at the same time might seem productive, but in actuality it slows us down from actually focusing on a task and completing it and it stresses us out in the meantime. Learn to single-task. 8. Eliminate energy drains. If youve analyzed your life (in Step 1) and found things that stress you out, you might have also noticed things that drain your energy. Certain things in our life just cause us to be more exhausted than others, with less value. Identify them, and cut them out. Youll have much more energy and much less stress. Happiness ensues. 9. Avoid difficult people. You know who they are. If you take a minute to think about it, you can identify all the people in your life bosses, coworkers, customers, friends, family, etc. who make your life more difficult. Now, you could confront them and do battle with them, but that will most certainly be difficult. Just cut them out of your life. 10. Simplify life. Simplifying, of course, is a major theme of Zen Habits. Simplify your routines, your commitments, your information intake, your cluttered rooms, the mass of stuff going on in your life and have less stress as a result. Start with Edit Your Life and then look through the other simplicity articles. 11. Unschedule. Create more open periods of time in your life. Its not necessary to schedule every minute of our lives. Learn to avoid meetings, keep wide open blocks of time where we either work on our important tasks or batch process the smaller ones. When someone asks to schedule a meeting, first try to get it done through email or phone if that doesnt work, avoid having it scheduled. Ask them to call you and see if youre free at that time. You will love having an open schedule. 12. Slow down. Instead of rushing through life, learn to take things slow. Enjoy your food, enjoy the people around you, enjoy nature. This step alone can save tons of stress.

13. Help others. It may sound contradictory to add more tasks to your life by trying to help other people (youve got enough to do), but if you were to add anything to your life, this should be it. Helping others, whether volunteering for a charity organization or just making an effort to be compassionate towards people you meet, not only gives you a very good feeling, it somehow lowers your stress level. Of course, this doesnt work if you try to control others, or help others in a very rushed and frenetic way learn to take it easy, enjoy yourself, and let things happen, as you work to make the lives of others better. 14. Relax throughout the day. Its important to take mini-breaks during your work day. Stop what youre doing, massage your shoulders and neck and head and hands and arms, get up and stretch, walk around, drink some water. Go outside and appreciate the fresh air and the beautiful sky. Talk to someone you like. Life doesnt have to be all about productivity. You should also avoid using online activity too much as your de-stressing activity get away from the computer to relax. 15. Quit work. This ones drastic, and probably too drastic for most. But in most likelihood, your work is your absolute biggest stressor. Getting out of your 9-to-5, automating your income, and finding something you truly love to do, that youre passionate about, will create a positive life and much less stressful one at that. Give it a little thought before dismissing it there might be possibilities here you havent considered. 16. Simplify your to-do list. Ive written about this before, but attempting to do everything on your long to-do list will definitely stress you out. Learn to simplify your to-do list down to the few essential tasks, and you will enjoy the process much more. 17. Exercise. This is common advice for stress relief, and thats because it works but its also a stress prevention method. Exercising helps relieve the stress buildup, it gives you some quiet time to contemplate and relax, and just as importantly, it makes you more fit. A fitter person is better equipped to handle stress. Another important factor: being unhealthy can be a major stressor (especially once you have to go to the hospital), and exercise can help prevent that. 18. Eat healthy. This goes hand-in-hand with exercise as a stress prevention method, of course. Become healthier and a major source of stress will disappear. Also, Ive found that greasy food, for me, puts me in a worse mood and can contribute to stress levels immediately. 19. Be grateful. This might not be as obvious as some of the others, but developing an attitude of gratitude (I sound like a preacher with that rhyme!) is a way of thinking positive, eliminating negative thinking from your life, and thereby reducing stress. Learn to be grateful for what you have, for the people in your life, and see it as a gift. With this sort of outlook on life, stress will go down and happiness will go up. Thats a winning formula. 20. Zen-like environment. Take time to declutter your desk (as mentioned above) and even once you do that, continually edit your desk and working space, and the things in your home, until youve created a simple, peaceful, Zen-like

environment. It will be much less stressful to work in an environment like that than a more cluttered and distracting one.