The Problem

The Problem is STRESS!

Stress seems to be a fact of life. Everybody has it. However, one of the biggest problems with stress is that we don’t see it as a serious enough problem to do anything about it until our life actually starts to get out of control – we get sick physically or emotionally. Why wait for a serious problem to happen before doing something about it? Low level stress over a long enough period of time can be very damaging. Headaches, sleep difficulties, upset stomachs, muscle tension – these and more, are often the result of stress. Taking aspirin, blood pressure medication, or having a drink to ‘unwind’ at the end of the day, may give the impression that you’ve got things under control. Wouldn’t it be much better to not have these symptoms that need controlling in the first place?

Stress is like sand in an engine. It generates a lot of heat and friction resulting in unnecessary wear and tear and loss of performance. Left unchecked long enough and the engine eventually breaks down.

Stress in us is much the same. It generates a lot of heat and friction resulting in unnecessary wear and tear – physically and emotionally. It gets in the way of personal performance. Left unchecked, it can lead to  our breakdown. In the extreme, it can kill us through heart attacks, and other life threatening diseases.


Some stress can be good – too much stress is bad.

Stress is part of our survival mechanism. It warns us of danger. It motivates us to take action. In fact, stress is inevitable – it’s part of being alive. However, the problem is that we often over-react to situations with the result that we generate much more stress than the situation warrants. For example, let’s consider fear. Fear is very useful. Fear is our past warning us to be careful of potentially harmful situations. Without it, we would put ourselves in situations that could be dangerous.

However, when we over-react and generate much more stress than is useful – sometimes to the point of paralysis – stress is no longer beneficial and can even be dangerous. For example, consider someone who is not used to driving in busy rush hour traffic. Finding themselves on a busy street, they experience fear. That’s good. It makes them drive with a greater caution in order to feel safe. However, if there is too much fear, and they drive so cautiously that they even freeze up at times, they become a danger to themselves and to others around them.


We don’t know how to release Stress

Another serious problem with stress is that many of us have difficulty releasing it. We tend to keep stress bottled up inside far longer than is useful. Consider this example: you’re driving on a major highway – relaxed and peaceful. Suddenly, another car comes out of nowhere, at very high speed, and cuts right in front of you. Fear rushes in and helps you take the immediate, evasive action to protect yourself – you brake and swerve to avoid the collision. Soon, the fear is joined by feelings of anger or rage – road rage. You feel like catching up to that other driver and running him or her off the road. Luckily, you manage to control yourself enough to not do anything too stupid. Some hours later, at home or at the office, you’re still shaking inside, telling everyone the story in an emotionally charged voice. Why? Why hold on to the stress? Ten seconds after that person cut you off, they were so far down the highway, you couldn’t even see them anymore. The stress you felt was useful in those few moments – it may have helped save your life. Holding on to it for hours, and perhaps longer (precipitating nightmares, etc.) is of no value, and is, in fact, harmful. Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to release stress when it stops serving us? We can!

We store stress and allow it to build up in our bodies. Even very low level stress, held in over long periods of time, eventually takes its toll.


Stress is a major contributing factor to:

• Physical problems (headaches, tension, pain, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, hypertension, etc.)

• Emotional problems like (anger, anxiety, fear, feeling helpless, depression, addiction, etc.)

• A weakened immune system leading to increased illness and disease.

• Reduced performance (poor problem-solving, decision-making, interpersonal relationship skills, diminished creativity. etc). [An aspiring Olympic athlete once told me that the difference between winning and losing, was the ability to remain calm (ie. no stress) and focused (mindful) in the heat of competition.]. Mindfulness isn’t just for those who have a problem. It’s about being your very best.


Dealing Effectively with Stress

In order to deal more effectively with stress, we need to gain a deeper understanding of what it is and how it works. Specifically: