Stress – Its effect on health and how to beat it

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They say there are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe they can make things happen and those who believe things happen to them. Basically it boils down to saying that one group of people are convinced of their control over the outcome of their lives and careers, and pushes ahead while the second group kind of waits for the right opportunity.

According to a blog post published on inc.com, university of Florida psychologist Tim Judge and his colleagues have shown that those who feel that they control their life events and have confidence in their abilities do better on nearly every front. To be specific, it was found that they were able to sell more than other employees, give better customer service, adjust better to new assignments. and take home an average of 50 to 150 percent more in annual income.

First, let us take a look at some of the observations in the said post. The word Empowered used refers to those who think they control their life events.

“Just like you, the Empowered feel intense stress and anxiety when hard times strike, but they use this anxiety differently. Since the Empowered believe that they have control over the outcomes in their lives, their anxiety fuels passion instead of pity, drive in lieu of despair, and tenacity over trepidation.”

This attitude is described in Bhagavad Gita as a symptom of someone under the influence of rajo guna, the mode of passion. A person in the mode of passion has never-ending desires and longing for achieving more, and if he fails to achieve his goal, he endeavors even more until he makes it or breaks it. This makes the redoubling of efforts a gamble.

“The empowered outperform everyone else because the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90 percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.”

stress1Another interesting piece of information is about why people cannot act until the last minute or until their anxiety level is about to explode. According to modern science, our brains are wired in such a way that it’s difficult to take action until our anxiety, or stress, reaches a certain level. Best performance can be achieved by maintaining within optimal levels. In fact, you realize your full potential when you come across some toughest times of your life when stress level is at its peak. Quite the opposite, letting the stress take control of the situation amounts to losing self-control.

“Dwindling self-control is particularly scary when you consider that stress affects physiological functions in the brain, contributing to chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. And stress doesn’t stop there–it’s linked to depression, obesity, and decreased cognitive performance.”

How to balance?  The author advises, “the key thing to understand before getting started is that you are indeed facing uncertainty–the outcome of your future has not been decided. It’s up to you to develop the beliefs and mental toughness that will make you one of the Empowered.” Here are the steps he suggests:

Step 1: Expect and Prepare for Change
Step 2: Focus on Your Freedoms, Not Your Limitations
Step 3: Rewrite Your Script
Step 4: Spot and Stop Negative Self-Talk
Step 5: Count Your Blessings (Read more at How Successful People Beat Stress | Inc.com)

While all the steps are important, the last one, that is, being grateful to those who have been kind and supportive, plays a decisive role in one’s success story. Success does not only means getting the work done: it also means satisfaction of mind.

Bhagavad Gita (12.12) points at the secret to satisfied mind: “…Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.”

One may wonder how can one be satisfied with a success if the result is given away? Here is the beauty of karma yoga. By giving away the result, one effectively gives up the sense of ownership, which, in turn, makes one free of anxiety of good or bad result. This does not mean one becomes irresponsible towards his work. It is like a serviceman has no anxiety of his boss making profit or loss, and here, the boss being God, one has nothing to fear as both profit and loss make no difference to God since He is anyway the owner of all that exist! Not only that, if the boss is pleased with his assistant’s endeavors and attitude, he may offer him additional bonus. So, a person working for the pleasure of the Lord has to only do his best and not be anxious of the result. The result will be delivered by the Lord, and it will definitely be better than one may deserve for his hard work. It comes as a special blessing from the Lord.

Here is the difference between the thought process of a person in the mode of passion and one in the mode of goodness, and it shows how working in the mode of goodness is far more rewarding. By working as if we were the controllers and being anxious for the result, we may be able to achieve temporary success and feel happy about it, but the hard reality is, success in every work is never guaranteed. On the other hand, those working with full knowledge that God is always in control and that He delivers the best result are in a much safer and better position to experience satisfaction. It automatically gives them peace of mind as, for them the work itself is a success knowing that it is for the pleasure of God.

One more thing: we learn from Vedic science that a person acquires his qualities from the result of his past karmas performed during one or more of his previous lives. This is the reason we find some children extraordinarily brilliant, and some brain-dead, blind or dumb right from the birth. In other words, it is not necessarily true that anyone and everyone can be successful in all that they do by imitating successful people, although doing so could make them become one of them in due course of time during his spiritual journey consisting of millions of lifetimes. Again, this is because it is God who delivers the result and He does it at the right time. Ma phaleshu kadachana (BG 2.47): voluntarily giving up the desire to enjoy the result of one’s action is the core principle of karma yoga, practicing which one can easily be stress free and happy in this life, and happier in the next.