"Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness" – Richard Carlson

There are not many things that remain constant in this life. Change, it seems, is the only certainty. The Western world is undergoing enormous change – economically, socially and politically – and along with this change comes anxiety and a reluctance to accept "the inevitable." Why? Because we have been accustomed to enjoying a particular lifestyle and the "freedom" that money can buy.

Now we are being challenged symbolically in a way that has not been seen since perhaps the Civil War. As Pluto made its transit once again over Thanksgiving, it retraced a cyclical patterning that lasts around 17 years, promising transformation and change away from the status quo. Many of us have not experienced such intensity linked to fear – fear of what we have and may lose, or fear of what we don’t have and want. As this fear grows, it breeds anger and resentment in people and wrecks havoc emotionally, within the individual and those who surround them.

It is truly amazing to look back a mere 10 years to the technological advances that have been made in that time. On many levels, our lives are easier. We now pay bills online and access all kinds of information at the push of a button. Yet, there are always two sides of a coin. The vast array of technological advances does not seem to satiate our innate desire to want more – and time that could be saved is gobbled up with computer games and a host of other distractions.

In Yoga and Ayurveda, sensory input is considered food of the mind. Left unchecked, it can lead to a buildup of toxic waste that can erupt into stress, anxiety or some form of disease. The desire to want more has resulted in millions of people who have incorrect breathing patterns that don’t eliminate all the carbon dioxide from the body. We are living off of the borrowed next breath in the same way that we as a society are living off borrowed credit. The reality of that is beginning to sink in during this time of change – and the entire household will be affected by any emotionality this brings.

Because we live so much in our minds, it is important for us to feel like we are in control and have everything we want…even if we don’t. For this, we need to be content and create a lifestyle that is harmonious.

A tranquil environment is a good investment. I used to say that breathing correctly is what we need to focus on. Now, however, I believe we need to create a lifestyle that supports any techniques or practices we choose to adopt.

Simplifying one’s life and being mindful of what we take in through the senses is a powerful technique for the long term, because we can become much more aware of the emotional thought patterning that the mind generates and know that there is something beyond it. This is because we have made space to think the thought that we never had before, and this gives us an opportunity to solve any problems we may be facing. Discernment is key. We need to know what is poison for us – that which makes us feel threatened, resentful, fearful and angry.

The following are ways to prevent or deal with stress:

• Be mindful of what you take in through the sense organs of the eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

• Simplify your life and enjoy quite times and simple pleasures.

• Exercise and try to get out in nature.

• Make sure that you download the stress from the mind before going to bed. This may include things like taking a warm bath, reading, massage, restorative yoga, breathing techniques and meditation.

• Devote time to doing something that you like, something that helps you feel good about yourself.

Remember: it is not the event that causes the stress but the reaction of the mind to the event. Change that and you eliminate the stress. Attitude is all.

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