Throughout the years in my career, I have met many people experiencing varying levels of stress in their lives. In my observations over time, I noticed that everyone had their own personal experience of stress, with individual interpretations and symptoms.
Sometimes we are not anymore aware of the stress that is affecting us. It becomes so familiar that we repeatedly feed into stressful actions, thoughts, relationships, or behaviors. The vicious cycle continues and becomes stronger, eventually affecting our lives by negatively impacting our health, relationships, and overall wellbeing.
What are key elements in stress awareness and management?
Earth Element: In this section, we consider stress related to the physical body and material aspects of life, as well as basic needs, family, and foundation.
Stress can be caused by environment. This may be through contamination, noise, aggression, chemicals in food, or accidents that cuase injury.
We also experience internal stress due to illness, hormonal changes, or dealing with the aging process. We may feed into stress through bad habits, unhealthy diet, or a lack of exercise or sleep.
Stress affects our physical health. Becoming aware of your needs and your physical body will support you in nurturing your body and bringing more balance to your life. We can do this by cultivating a sense of acceptance and compassion.
Water Element: Unhealthy relationships with ourselves or our environment can cause emotional stress. We experience stress when we become overly attached in our relationships. This attachment can create a distance from our own emotional balance.
Exploring our relationships includes looking at our family, our relationships with loved ones, work relationships with colleagues, and the relationship with our environment. Our stress affects others, just as others may affect us. Choosing to surround yourself with positive people will help you to find more harmony. Yet, we also have to consider the relationship with ourselves; with our body, emotions, feelings and path.
Bringing more awareness to your emotions will help you to authentically navigate your relationships. When we accept the shifting of emotions, much like the constant movement of the water, we awaken compassion and forgiveness. This helps us to release attachments, opening the flow within and all around.
There are no positive or negative emotions. It is rather the way we relate, deal, and channel our emotions that can transform them into a positive or negative. Emotions are directly connected to the vital energy. They give us the strength, confidence to express and direct our actions with intention.
Fire Element: We experience stress in this element when others hurt our feelings, when our self-esteem is low, or when the spark of life seems to be vanishing. The external pressure builds up and destroys the healthy ego, causing stress when we allow it.
We can also create stress when we underestimate or overestimate ourselves, creating an imbalance in our fire element. When we procrastinate on moving towards our dreams and inspirations, we put extra weight and pressure on our hearts, creating a wound and causing stress that is not always needed.
To heal and nurture our hearts, we must first become aware of our own true feelings and desires, releasing the expectations that we feel from others. It takes practice to differentiate between our inner voice and the messages we receive from others. When we are able to do this, we can awaken to our own true calling.
Some people become addicted to stress. I once worked with a man in Pucon, a village in the South of the Andes. He experienced a feeling of relaxation after our morning consultation. When I saw him the next day, he said that he had consumed at least three coffees that day, trying to find his normal “stressful” feeling. He didn’t believe that he could work or be efficient if he was feeling so relaxed. Though, at the end of the day, he noticed that he had been very productive. He accomplished many things that day, and completed tasks that he had been procrastinating for weeks. Everything was flowing, with no resistance and no pressure. It was a very unfamiliar place for him to be.
Air Element: What we see, read, and hear can be a significant source of stress.
You may notice that watching the news or a violent film symbolically affects your state of mind. Experiencing aggressive language or verbal abuse can also be extremely harmful and traumatic. The pain of this can sometimes be more difficult to heal than a wound that is more rational and accessible to treat, because the pain is internalized. The internal thought process continues to feed into it. The words have been so aggressive and hurtful that we begin to believe them. This is one of the main sources of stress.
One morning, a man was recovering after a long seven hour surgery. He was feeling good, but began to watch the news and documentaries about war for the entire day. His energy began to decrease, causing stress within his whole body. After becoming aware of this, the next day he chose to watch a more uplifting television channel, listen to music, and enjoy things that were more harmonious. His healing and state of mind noticeably improved.
Our state of mind and state of being will go wherever we choose to direct our attention and energy. Being aware of our thoughts and core beliefs helps to clarify our minds and promote healing. Learning to direct the mind with clarity takes practice and intention. It is similar to training a new muscle, and requires constant attention in order to stay alert and effective.
Ether Element: The concept of fate states that certain aspects of life are simply out of our control. We will all grow older as the days pass. We will all die one day, even with the best surgeon, the most cautious driver, the most enlightened guru, or the miracle healer. This physical dimension that we live in is temporary.
Yet, there are other aspects of fate that some try to resist. Not all marriages will last forever. The child that you wanted may grow to be different than you expected. What if you think that the gifts and talents of your friend or business partner are better than your own? It is only through acceptance of your own potential and gifts that you will find happiness, balance, and abundance.
A large source of stress comes from resistance to what is.
Some people believe that by loving another person, they have the ability to change them to fit their own expectations. Over time they realize that what they loved was the illusion they built upon that individual, rather than the actual person.
We encounter stress when we try to resist fate, or when we believe that we must fully surrender to it with no personal accountability or responsibility. Finding the middle line will support a path to stress management and balance.
Developing the qualities of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude, as well as clarifying your intention, support the process of navigating life’s transitions with clarity and strength.