I remember reading about 10 years ago that in the future, stress would become the number one killer. Today, I see this stress invading people’s lives like the plague! Even with all the technology and conveniences that are supposed to make our lives easier, we find ourselves busier than ever, filled with anxiety and overwhelm, and lacking in health and wellness. People are struggling with adrenal issues, frequent illness, painful inflammatory ailments, and exhaustion.
So what is the antidote for this draining force of stress? I certainly don’t have all the answers for every individual situation, but what I do know is that at least part of the answer lies in our power of choice. This soul force is something that makes us uniquely human. Unlike the other kingdoms of nature (mineral, plant and animal), the Human Kingdom has the power to discern, to reason, to understand and to choose. We can rise above instinctual animal behaviors and take time to understand our circumstances and make wise decisions in response to them.
In order to be discerning, we must first know what we are addressing. What is the situation before us? Who are the players involved? What is being asked of us? What kind of time is involved? Is it necessary? How will it benefit, or not, the greater community and life of you and those around you?
It’s never too late to consider what we are dealing with. Even if you find yourself in the thick of a situation, you can step back and reassess things for yourself and your sanity. In discerning what the situation is, we can determine if it’s something that was even asked of us in the first place. Perhaps it is something that we simply felt obligated to do, and no one is actually expecting us to do anything. Perhaps it is a situation we have found ourselves in, and realize after the fact that we don’t want to be there, or that we should have set some boundaries around our experience there. From this broader vantage point of understanding, we can then begin to adjust our circumstances to be more beneficial and less stressful.
In adjusting a situation, or determining what we want our involvement to be, we must consider our role in the scenario as an individual. Do we care about it? What do we have to contribute? Do we have the capacity, time, energy, attention, interest, care, and willingness to be involved in whatever the situation is and/or what is being asked of or drawn from us? Are we clear as to what we need or want in or from the situation? Have we communicated those needs to others involved? Are we clear as to what others need/want from us and the circumstance?
Once we have taken the time to assess the situation, then we can either renegotiate our role with others involved in an existing situation, or discern how we do or do not want to be involved in a new situation. I see over and over that this lack of understanding of our circumstances is the primary factor in generating stress. When we know what we’re dealing with, we have far greater power to make wise choices and set ourselves up for strength and peace rather than stress and frustration.
Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. While it may seem that stress is imposed upon us or that we “have no choice” in the matter, in reality, we ALWAYS have a choice. We have the power to determine our levels of stress. There is tremendous power in how we choose to hold ourselves in any situation, and that has nothing to do with the outer world. In reality, we need stress to grow and learn. But in today’s world, we are under too much stress that is not managed in a healthy way.
Equanimity goes a long way in dealing with stress. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at dealing with difficult situations and finding balance through them. But this past couple of years, I’ve been learning that stress is stress, positive or negative. Our body responds to “good stress” just as it does to “bad stress.” We tend to think of weddings and vacations, and special events as “good” things, while we think of funerals, conflicts and unexpected difficulties like car breakdowns as “bad” things. In reality, all of these things, because they are new to you and taxing to your system with their energy, can generate stress. We can get so down about a difficulty, and so high about a victory. These highs and lows in our experience generate adrenaline and tax our system. Our system doesn’t discern whether they are “good” or “bad.”
True equanimity comes from a contentment combined with a willingness to adjust. We must be accepting of what is without becoming complacent, and willing to adjust without blaming or fault finding in our circumstances. This is a strength only to be found within. We can willingly choose in ways that honor our needs and take care of our stress levels. We can also be accepting of what is in such a way as not to deepen our stress around the situation. We can temper our excitement for the “good things” with a calm demeanor of gratitude, and we can temper our frustration with the “bad things” with a peaceful willingness to see the lessons and opportunities in the situation.
So how do we find this equanimity, calm, peace and gratitude? Inner stillness. Yes, this is the ultimate choice, the choice for silence and stillness, that we have the power to make. And it is this very mood of soul, stillness and quietude, that is under attack in today’s fast paced, technologically distracting world. We must exercise our will forces to choose this quiet. It can begin with seconds, and build to more significant blocks of time in which we can receive strength and nourishment to meet life’s challenges. In this inner stillness, we find greater ability to discern what is truly aligned with our highest selves, our highest destiny, and the highest service of all.
Ultimately, it is about exercising our unique human ability to discern, and to consciously find balance within ourselves. I have always found that working with the virtues proves to be extremely powerful in helping me to meet most any challenge. Virtues are the mean between the too much and the too little. Isn’t this what stress is all about? We tend to get most stressed when a circumstance seems to be “too much” of something (activities, tasks, intense energies, etc.) or “too little of something (time, money, understanding, etc.). Take a look at my Zodiacal Virtues web page for some basic guidance in working with the twelve virtues of the year. I am in the process of developing an online course for working with the virtues monthly to offer strength and support throughout the year. While the virtues correspond to certain zodiacal signs, we are working with all of these starry gifts all of the time, and no one is more important than another. Take a look at what resonates for you and see if perhaps finding some balance in one or more of these virtues helps you manage the stress you are dealing with in any given situation.
In this coming year, I wish you the strength to realize your power to choose and discern your needs, goals and aspirations to live in alignment with your best self!
May the year bring blessings and love on your journey!