Recently I came across an article titled “Pressure Vs. Stress”. The author writes: Pressure is not stress. But pressure is converted to stress when you add one ingredient: rumination, the tendency to keep rethinking past or future events, while attaching negative emotion to those thoughts.
The process starts with understanding that stress is caused not by other people or external events, but by our reactions to them. In the workplace, many people blame their high anxiety levels on a boss, job, deadlines, or competing commitments for their time. But peers who face the same challenges respond without stress. I often meet executives who have high levels of pressure but low levels of stress, and vice versa.
The author offers four steps to alleviate the pressures at work converting into stress and the attendant consequences:
- Wake up
- Control your attention
- Put things in Perspective
- Let go.
In summary: Become aware of the reality of your life and its larger context, not constrained by the events and activities constituting the “Pressure”. Then let go of the ruminating thoughts or negative effects of the events. Internalizing pressure leads to “stress” and its conversion into biological, physiological and psychological responses and their negative consequences.
The above steps are easier said than done. If one can accomplish the above steps easily we will all have far few cases of anxiety, depression, ulcer which require medical intervention. Without reaching such extremes our unhappiness in life, anger, grief and a general state of letdown are all reflections of the conversion of the pressures of life into personal stress.
Engineers design pressure vessels like pressure cookers. The high pressure is contained by the stress in the container walls. To keep the vessel within its stress limits designers also include factor of safety and relief valves in their design. Basics of philosophy provide the knowledge of the safety factors as well as the relief valve necessary in human aspects of life.
Life is not always a negative conversion of pressure into debilitating stress. It is also a process of accomplishments, kindness, compassion, sharing and joy. In other words life is always a two sided coin. To see the two sides of the coin is “Spirituality in Practice”. SiP is the relief valve we need to go from Stress and its ill effects to stress and its positive engagement for a larger and more full-filling nature of life.
We have described earlier the ascending ladder of Spirituality in Practice as:
- I am not OK — Ignorance (Thamasam) leading to grief, depression and lack of direction.
- I am not OK, You are OK; I am OK, You are not OK — Attachment and bias (Rajasam) leading to end less chain of activities due to incessant unfulfilled needs and a constant cycle of happiness and sorrow.
- We are OK — Knowledge and understanding (Sathvikam) leading to an objective outlook and the difference between possible and attainable Vs. challenges and unattainable (at least for now).
We also know that all of these three manner of connecting my SELF (inner person) to the evidences or situation (External cognitive perceptions, feelings and thought) co-exist! The dominant nature of our connection among the above three determines our perceived pressure and internalizing that as our stress.
The first three steps proposed – Wake up; Control your attention; Put things in Perspective – are means (Pressure relief valves) to an objective outlook on life and its activities. Spirituality in Practice requires us to evolve above analysis of the tangible to a larger intangible frame of mind which states:
We are ALL OK (Sagunathvam) — No amount of reading or teaching or learning can lead to this state of self-realization. It is best described by the fourth step described in the HBR article (i.e) Let Go.
Scriptures and philosophy teach us a fifth or final state: Everything is nature; everything is OK (Nirgunathvam).
Internalizing the thought that everything is nature can be the end result of detailed analytical process. It can also be a simple matter of recognizing the self-evident truth (i.e.)
- I am part of nature so is everything in the nature! (Thath Thwam Asi)
- “I” am enabled by the Laws of nature (I am Brahman – Aham Brahma) and I exist as an evidence of the laws of nature. Everything else is also enabled by laws of nature and exist as evidences of such laws of nature at work!
Where everything is part of nature, pressure remains as much the part of nature as my response to it. There is nothing to internalize. There is nothing to experience as “stress”.
This transition (i.e.) We are all OK leading to Everything is OK can be learned. According to scholars Meditation is a tool for learning and practicing this state of mind. We shall cover them in our next essay.
Following folk song in Telugu language is frequently heard in Carnatic music. This poem communicates the stress free state of mind available to everyone. It is the relief that is readily accessible anyone who seeks it!
Brahmam Okate’ Para Brahmam Okate’ : The individual SELF and the Universal Spirit are one and the same (Everything is OK!)
There are no differences of low and high. Lord (the soul inside all of us) is one and the same. Every form of creation is one because the indwelling spirit in every creature is one and the same.
Sleep is same to all, be it a king or a servant. Be it a man of noble life or one of crude behavior, the earth they live on is the one and the same.
The sensual pleasure is one and the same either for angels or for the insects and animals. The day and night are equal to the rich as well as to the poor.
One could afford to eat tasty food and the other eats stale and wasted food. But the tongues that taste the food are alike. An object of fragrance or an object of foul smell, the air that carries the smell is one and the same.
Be it an elephant or a dog, the sun shines alike on both of them.
Now ask yourself: Where does your stress come from? What are your relief valves? How can you help someone, anyone to relieve their stress?