Ask Prem Chopra
Periodically, we select and highlight one of many questions we receive from our visitors and post answers on this page. You may send you questions in an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I reduce stress in my life?
If you understand where stress comes from, you will be well on your way to reducing stress in your life. Stress is caused by obstructions and distractions that disrupt the normal flow of your life . Most sources of stress fall into one of these two categories:
Obstructions are caused by external forces that may or mayt not be predictable or avoidable. If the obstruction is predictable, it is be possible to mitigate its impact and the resulting stress. For example, if you expect a hurricane, you could leave the area as soon as you are warned. On the other hand, if you are in a car accident there would be no way to avoid the stress. Other examples of stress from external events include pain and suffering from accidents, sickness or ill-health in yourself or in other loved ones. The lesson here is to navigate around obstructions whenever possible, and accept those you cannot avoid. This requires knowledge and clear judgment from wisdom honed through experience.
Distractions arise from within, driven by desires and by expectations of the fruits from those desires. One of the most famous examples is provided by Adam and Eve and the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Another example is provided by the sailors in Ulysses’ fleet who follow their desires, excited by the songs of the sirens, to their destruction on the rocky shores.
Stress increases when your desires and expectations remain unmet or when you fear that they will not be met despite your efforts. Such stress is aggravated further by frustration. An example is provided by the individual who worries about not getting a raise instead of working efficiently and diligently. Fear and anxiety feed on themselves and cause more stress. Stress is a major cause of unhappiness. A stress-free life is a happy life.
You can control your distractions and mitigate stress by pursuing actions driven by purpose and balanced with positive core values. Meditation is an effective way to reduce stress from distractions, by unraveling the random maze of desires and thoughts in the mind. Other forms of relaxation, including exercise, sports, dancing, walking, jogging, bicycling, music or drumming, for example, also help reduce stress. The lesson here is to lead a balanced life, driven by a purpose defined from within.
A practical framework for navigating through your life with purpose, reducing stress, and increasing happiness, is provided by the Four Secrets of the Brook.