What is stress? There are endless studies about the effects of stress on people’s lives, health, relationships, etc., but it’s equally important to acknowledge the true cause of stress, and I don’t mean those ‘annoying’ people in your life. We have all sorts of methods of trying to alleviate stress, to conquer stress, to minimize stress, to handle stress. And all these have incredible merit. But in order to achieve any of these things, we need to recognize the true root cause from which stress comes. Stress is a perception, it’s a feeling, and it’s something that is individualized within the mind. As such, we each have the power to change the way we perceive things and subsequently the power to choose whether we experience stress or peace of mind in any given moment.

We seem to be headed into dualistic times where there is a significant split between the path of enlightenment and the path of self-destruction. There’s lots of talk about the fate of our planet, our civilization, and humanity. Some people are becoming less and less sure about their place in this world and the fate of their generation and the generations to come. No wonder we’re all so stressed out. But you may have noticed a recent insurgence and emphasis on enlightened thinking. There are more and more people interested and involved in alternative methods of health care, environmentally conscious practices, spiritual movements and teachings, etc., and it’s all becoming less eccentric and more common place. We as a society are waking up. We are all going through a transformation.

With this transformation comes a need to take more and more responsibility for ourselves and our lives, and humanity as a whole. With this responsibility, though, comes great power and wisdom as well. With this transformation comes choice, and this choice either leads us down a path of fulfillment, or a down a path full of stress and strife.

Okay, so how can we define stress? Often we put the blame on circumstances that we simply don’t like. So in essence, stress can be described as the feeling created from having a desire (what you want) but not having achieved the manifestation of that desire (what you get). The funny thing is, often we rely on the outside world to provide us with our satisfaction. For example, say you desire a raise but you have not received one yet. Now you’re left with a desire that has yet to be fulfilled. But what if instead of focusing on what you lack (i.e. the raise) and how unfair it is, you focused on how grateful you are to have a job; on the satisfaction you get from serving your clients; on how this may be a wake-up call and a catalyst for great positive change in your life. As your perception changes, so do your feelings, and so do your experiences. One of the biggest misconceptions is that outside situations are what create our stress. But in reality, it’s our own perception of the situation that causes the stress. The situation is what it is. It’s neutral. It’s our assessment of it and meaning we attach to it that causes us to stress out.

Stress is basically an effect of not getting our way. “I want what I want when I want it!” We’ve become such an instant gratification society that when we don’t get exactly our way right away, we huff and puff and tell the whole world off. Okay, perhaps it’s not so dramatic all the time, but truly, we’ve lost our consciousness. We’ve allowed our egos to take over our minds and our bodies and we’ve completely ignored our souls. We’ve become lost in a “give me give me” society.

So what do we do now? How do we understand stress in such a way that we can remove it or at least use it to our advantage? Here are some suggestions that may help:

Stress Buster #1: You are not alone

You are not alone. So, the good news is that you don’t have to place the weight of the world on your shoulders. The Universe holds such a vast source of energy, and you have it at your disposal. When you align yourselves with this higher intelligence (which by the way is within you as well), this is when you realize that you are guided and truly provided for. You are connected to this field of energetic intelligence and you are made up of it as well. It’s always there but you may not perceive it because of so many layers of doubt and fear and low self-worth. So remove your Superman complex and ask for higher guidance, be open to it and you will receive it. Not only don’t you have to do things alone, you truly can’t. When you try, that’s when you are stressed and that’s when your tendency is to blame others for your strife. Just open yourself up to the possibility that you, or more accurately your ego, doesn’t always have all the answers. Your soul knows, but if you aren’t listening, you won’t hear it. Release for one moment your desire to control everything as per your agenda, and see how much guidance and assistance you really have in every moment of your life.

Stress Buster #2: Everything has its purpose

When you realize that there is a purpose for everything that happens in your life and that nothing ever happens randomly, that is when you start to see the synchronicities in life. I am sure that you have at least one example of a time when you were upset about something not going the way you wanted, only to realize later that it served a very important purpose, often a greater one. The problem is that you are seldom aware of the big picture usually because you are so caught up in yourself and the moment that that’s all you can perceive. If you are conscious enough though, you can start to see the effects of your actions before they transpire. You can start to see the lessons in everything that help you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Stress Buster #3: Detachment from the outcome

Detaching yourself from the outcome does not mean that you don’t care. All it means is that you are open to other possibilities that you cannot perceive from your current vantage point. It means allowing the vast source of energy that exists to guide you in the right direction. It means to participate in the manifestation process through your intentions and consciousness, but to let go of your desperate attachment to how you think things ought to turn out. Set your intention, and then release it and go about your business. Don’t obsess because if you do, it will run away from you.

Stress Buster #4: Service

Simply put, when we stop thinking about ourselves for one minute and extend our hands to another, it’s amazing how suddenly our perspective changes. When we are stressed, often we are worried about ourselves and what we are getting or not getting. Shifting our focus from what we can get to what we can give can have miraculous effects in our lives. Shift your focus onto service. Get outside of yourself and your own desires for one moment and you will quickly realize that being in service in some way is what will bring you what you need in life. And when you’re focused on service, you won’t be chasing after what you can get.

Another note about service for those martyrs out there. Service also applies to oneself. In order to be of greatest service to others you must also respect and love and serve yourself. There is a big difference between servicing your ego and servicing your soul. Loving and caring for yourself is not selfish; if anything it is very sharing when you come at it from the perspective of being a divine creation and knowing that you can only give what you have. Feel yourself whole and nurture your body, mind and soul and you will have endless resources to share with others.

Stress Buster #5: Appreciation not Depreciation

If you find yourself feeling stressed or depressed, start listing all the things for which you are appreciative. Depression and appreciation cannot co-exist. It is so common for us to focus on what we lack in our lives. The funny thing is that when we allow our egos to rule our lives, no matter how much we achieve or accumulate, it’s never enough. Somehow we still manage to focus on what’s missing. It’s a compulsion, it’s an addiction, and it definitely does not help with stress. At every moment we are either appreciating or depreciating. When we appreciate we feel uplifted and happy. When we criticize, complain and depreciate everything and everyone, we feel stressed. Also, if you do feel stressed, you’re most likely to be focused on what you don’t like or don’t want. In this moment shift your focus. Start to envision the outcome you would most like. Get into the feeling of what it would be like to have the outcome that you desire. In this mindset, you are in solution-mode rather than perpetuating the problem.

Stress Buster #6: Stress as a Motivator

We can also perceive stress as a motivator. How? Well, when you feel stressed, you can see it as an indication that perhaps it’s time to change something within yourself. Making conscious and proactive changes is a much more effective way of going about things. Sweeping things under the rug or laying blame on others is what gets you in the mess of stress in the first place. Stress is like a barometer that indicates to you that you’ve moved off course. It’s a motivator to start reassessing your motives and goals.

Bottom line is that the reason why we ever do anything is because we want to feel good. When we want to feel good at the intentional expense of others, we’ll deal with the price of that at some point. When we want to feel good with respect, sharing and love in mind, we find happiness. When we are stressed it’s a pretty good indication that we are not feeling good. As such, it’s a nudge from the Universe telling us to wake up and shift gears. So if you’re feeling stressed, stop for a moment, breathe, take a time out, get quiet, listen to what your inner voice is telling you. Don’t let your ego rule you. Take your power back. Take responsibility. Listen for the message. Do something proactive about it.

Stress Buster #7:What do you want?

Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your desires and the reasons behind them?

As we discussed earlier, stress is born out of having a desire but not yet having achieved that desire. So it would make sense then, to assess what it is that we actually desire to even see if it’s worth getting all stressed out about it. An effective tool is to make a list of what it is that you want, and then ask yourself why you want it. There are two categories of desire; one is bread from the ego, and the other from the soul.

The line between the two can sometimes be misty, but the only way to clarify it is to go down your list and be honest with yourself regarding your motives. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting a great job or a beautiful home or a loving spouse, etc. Where we get sidetracked is when we are solely motivated by competition or fear or insecurity, thinking that somehow if we had a great job or a beautiful house or a loving spouse we would be more valuable as people; that people would like and respect us, be envious even.

Sometimes we feel stressed when we are on the wrong path. When we are not living with purpose we can tend to have attention deficit, we are groggy, dissatisfied, depressed, and so on. When you sit down and really focus on your desires you’ll suddenly see a narrowing happening. You’ll decipher between those desires that are imposed on you by others, those that are inspired by fear, and those that inspire you at your core, etc.

Try listing the things that you wanted earlier in life, and see if your tastes have changed since then. What you will probably notice is that those manifested desires that solely fed the ego were the ones that were fleeting. Those that had purpose were the ones that felt truly fulfilling. There is a reason why we each have our own specific desires. There’s no randomness there either. We each have our own purpose and as such, we have specific desires that drive us. When we shift our desires to something with purpose, things in our life tend to flow better.

Bottom line is this, when we put things into perspective and we become conscious and aware, this is when we start perceiving that which is beyond our ego. And when we start perceiving that which is beyond our ego, that’s when we find peace. And where there is peace, there can be no stress.