There are many tools to deal with stress and some of them I have written about in my previous posts De-Stressing 101 and 201. They include, for example, breathing techniques, cognitive tools, mindfulness practices, proper diet, proper exercise, etc… They can all be very effective and the key is just finding the right ones for us and applying them regularly. But now I would like to look at a less tangible tool, spirituality, and the tremendous impact it can have in decreasing our stress and agitation level.
Spirituality does not necessarily mean to follow a belief system or specific religious worships. Spirituality can arise from the connection with our own sense of self, the development of a value system or the search for meaning in life. For some, of course, it takes the form of religious observances, prayer or the belief in a higher power but it can also manifest in our love of nature, the arts or service to others.
Spirituality can help us by giving context to our lives and by finding a sense of purpose and connection with the world. The more purposeful our life is, the less alienated and isolated we feel even when we are alone. Spirituality also helps us release the control we exert on ourselves as we realize that we are not the only ones responsible for everything that happens in life and so we can let go of anxieties and fears. Spirituality can expand our support network as we connect with people (the sangha) that share our same spiritual values and ideals. Finally, from a health point of view, a spiritual outlook can help us heal faster from bad habits and addictions as we draw strength from a higher source.
But not everybody might have discovered their connection with spirituality so what follows are some questions to ponder on in order to find your affinities and get in touch with your spirit. And by spirit I mean our own deep self, the consciousness that sees forms and the passage of time without identification and that experiences joy, wisdom and compassion: what are your important relationships? what do you value most in life? what people give you a sense of community? what inspires you and gives you hope? what brings you joy? what are your proudest achievements? etc…
To cultivate our spirituality the main component is getting in touch with ourselves and this is best done by self-reflection, in silence and solitude. We can do that in meditation, prayer, relaxation or going for a quiet walk in nature. At those times our mental activity decreases, we become calm and peaceful and we get a taste of contentment and bliss. We can also help this process by keeping a journal, writing and recording our feelings and hopes and keeping track of our progress. We can also foster spiritual relationships and seek trusted advisers, friends, mentors or teachers that we admire and can support and inspire us. And when those live supports are not available we can read inspirational books and stories. Finally volunteering, karma yoga, is a potent way to open our heart and find joy in giving unconditionally.
As we discover, cultivate and nurture our spirituality, we become more and more grounded on a powerful source of strength and confidence and so when the stresses of life overwhelm us and we cannot find a solution to our difficulties, the ultimate stress relief strategy is the letting go, the surrender to a greater power or intelligence, inside us or outside us, and by allowing it to work through us, with us or in spite of us, we become free from agitation, confusion and turmoil.