In our hectic modern world, where we are scrambling to make enough money to buy the next invention that is supposed to make our lives enjoyable or save time, we can easily become so stressed that we are overwhelmed.
It is more stressful to try to manage a difficult situation by going faster than it is by slowing down. A saying that might help you to remember not to fall into the trap of going faster is “Under stress, we regress.”
When we are stressed we tend to use the responses that are most familiar to us. Our old, familiar ways of handling things tend to be ones that we learned earlier in life when we had less knowledge and experience, so creating more stress for ourselves by moving too quickly usually does not help the situation.
We tend to remember the things that we learn when we are in the same state that we were in when we first learned those lessons. If most of your best coping strategies were learned when you were in a calm state, you will be more likely to remember them when you are in a calm state. We usually learn things at work or in school when we are calm. If we later develop a frantic or chaotic lifestyle it will be more difficult to access the information that we need to function at our best in the world, including the awareness of how much more effective we are when we are calm.
If you get too stressed you may not be able to access your best store of information and strategies.
Too Much Heat In The Brain
Moving too fast, thinking too much, pushing ourselves to get the latest gadgets and conveniences and living an extreme lifestyle create friction and heat in the body. Heat rises. Stressed people end up with too much heat in their heads. Then they cannot think clearly or sleep soundly.
When we cannot sleep properly or think clearly we tend to make poor decisions and our performance is hindered, which brings undesirable consequences, which in turn puts more stress on us to fix the problems that have developed as a result of our poor decisions and performance. Worrying about and trying to fix the new problems can create more heat and friction. It is a vicious cycle. That kind of heat can also contribute to hyperactivity or make it worse.
Too Much Tension, Not Enough Relaxation
Many people view relaxation as something to mostly be addressed on holidays and vacations. Not only does that put a lot of pressure on those events to provide all the stress reduction that a person needs, but it also makes relaxation an event rather than an ongoing process. With phrases like “no pain, no gain,” “work before play,” “man up,” and “working for the weekend,” we seem to have embraced a lifestyle that has relegated the restorative aspect of life to a low priority, in which it is only allowed after we have accomplished whatever our goals are.
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When we get tense, though, we tend to perform less effectively, so such an approach greatly increases the likelihood that we will become depressed, stressed, and overwhelmed. In Taoist terms, many people live a lifestyle that is out of balance in that it puts too much emphasis on the yang (aggressive, active) aspect of life and not enough on the yin (restorative, receiving) aspect.
Living Too Sensually
We can also become overwhelmed if we focus too much on the material world that we sense with our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and tongue, without giving enough attention to the spiritual and energetic side of life that underlies it. Striving and competing can become a lifestyle. The relentless chase for material success can lead to premature aging and heart attacks. We can become very tired and unhappy from chasing after things that we hope will make us happy.
Flooding your senses on a regular basis will make it difficult to appreciate the peace of everyday moments. Being exposed too often to extreme amounts of stimulation can dull our senses to the extraordinary wonders of everyday life and create a tendency toward dependencies on substances and exciting activities. This creates a downward spiral of depression, using stimulation to medicate it, and more of a crash after the medicating wears off. Extreme amounts of sensory stimulation can seem exhilarating at the time, but they drain us later.
Adaptation Taken Too Far
Human beings are built to adapt to the circumstances around them. As we move further and further from our natural state to respond to the demands of daily life, the stress, frustration, and overstimulation of that lifestyle eventually starts to feel normal. A slower, less extreme lifestyle starts to seem boring.
We become used to a rollercoaster ride of dramatic highs and lows. That ride is very wearing on our internal systems. Eventually people start to feel tired from it and need more extreme highs to restore their energy temporarily. Meanwhile toxins accumulate as they push themselves beyond their natural limits.
Going Against Our Basic Nature
In order to keep up with the hectic pace and expectations of modern life, we often end up living in ways that our bodies would not naturally require. We eat and drink quickly at meals, wake up earlier than our bodies seem to want, and use stimulants like caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol to keep us going even after our bodies are exhausted. As a result we are more vulnerable than ever to feeling burned out, depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed.
Emptying More Than Filling
Somehow many of us have taken some good notions like “Treat others the way you would like to be treated” and “It’s better to give than to receive” to extremes, to the point where they are now taken to mean that to receive from others or take care of yourself is selfish. But people pleasing wears out the person who is doing the pleasing and robs the receiver of learning how to manage on his or her own.
Too much self-sacrifice ultimately leads people to burn themselves out physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. To combat this, 12-step programs often refer to the need for a “self first” approach rather than a selfish one.
Removing Ourselves from Nature Leads to Unnatural Habits
Other than weekend getaways and holidays, we tend to remain away from natural scenes. Now we pay large amounts of money and work hard so that we can get away from the city life that was supposed to help us get away from nature.
When we get back to nature we are reminded of what peace feels like and how to move more in sync with the flow of life. When we are away from it we forget and sometimes end up turning to stimulants to help us move faster than the cycles of life so we can stay ahead of them. Unfortunately that often leads to impatience, frustration, and careless errors, which compounds our desire to “get away.”
Too Tired to Grow and Flow
Pushing ourselves beyond our natural limits, in pursuit of what we have been led to believe will give us happiness, creates consequences that can leave us feeling old before our time. We may feel tired and then, even if we realize that our lifestyle needs to change, we may not have the reserve energy to make the changes that are needed.
Defining success by external results also affects our priorities. Consciously or not, if we are busy striving for more money, status, property, and fame, we tend to not believe that we have time or energy to look after our bodies or emotions. Then, if we reach for “quick fixes” like alcohol, drugs, and gambling when times are tough, our energetic pathways become blocked with toxins and filled with weak and stagnant energy, which makes it even more difficult for us to achieve our goals.
Immaterial Becomes Material
Many people do not know about or pay enough attention to the toxins that are piling up inside of them. Toxins can come to us through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the things we drink, our emotions, and the emotions of others. They all take up energetic space inside us.
The toxins clog our meridians, the energetic pathways of the body. That leads us to feel more and more stuck and distressed on a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual level. We develop various chronic conditions when this happens. Then we feel weighted down by life and have a sense that it would take very little to push us past the point of what we can take. We end up being more fearful and irritable as a result and, ironically, that makes us even more likely to build up emotional toxins inside. It becomes a vicious cycle.
If people do not understand the connection between toxins and bad feelings they are more likely to turn to something extreme, and possibly addictive, to make themselves feel better, which will lead to even more toxins developing in their systems.
Lacking Self-Discipline Training
How do we learn to relax, concentrate, and follow through on our ideas? It is rare for us to be simply born with those abilities. If we are not trained in how to do these things, or, even worse, are shown poor examples of self-discipline as we grow up, we are more likely to resort to quick fixes.
If we cannot control ourselves we will try to control the people and things around us. However, not only is control of external events not possible, but often people will “dig their heels in” and do the opposite of what we want. This is a formula for eventual hurt feelings that will pile up inside of us over time.
Too Much Stimulation Can Be A Real Downer
Modern society is strewn with stimulants. People use caffeine, nicotine, methamphetamine, gambling, sex, shopping, cocaine, and a variety of prescriptions to help them maintain a hectic lifestyle. Of course, what goes up must come down. The crash from stimulants after their effects wear off leaves people feeling worse than before they took them.
The desired effects of stimulants also tend to become less noticeable with continued use, to the point where people often eventually do not feel them at all. This creates another vicious downward spiral as people chase a feeling that slips further away from them.
In our modern world we have various kinds of media images and information bombarding us. The information is fed to us in quick and colorful ways so we will be able to focus on the whole message without getting bored or distracted. As a result many of us end up with poorly developed powers of concentration.
When we need to concentrate it will be difficult, which will lead to poorer results on various tasks, which increases the risk that we will become depressed, stressed, overwhelmed. Getting things quickly comes at a price. We lose the ability to wait and to focus on what we want.
Lack of Knowledge of the Dopamine Connection
Dopamine is a naturally-occurring neurotransmitter in the brain that is released when we feel stimulated. It helps to regulate our moods. However, many people do not know that overindulging in certain activities will lead to more dopamine being released than we need.
Excessive eating, gambling, sex, interpersonal drama, and shopping are examples of activities that can affect the dopamine levels in the brain. Eventually the body will crave more of that good feeling. If people are not aware of that connection, they may think that there is no harm in overindulging and could end up with a dependency or an addiction.
Experiencing a rush from extreme behavior will encourage people to live in extreme ways.
Copyright 2014, 2017 by North Star Trust. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Destiny Books,
a division of InnerTraditions Intl. www.innertraditions.com
In this illustrated guide, Master Mantak Chia and Doug Hilton explain how to integrate the eye movements of EMDR with the energetic exercises of the Universal Healing Tao to rid yourself of the negative feelings associated with past trauma, build up positive feelings about handling similar events in the future, and remove any physical sensations connected to the issue.
About the Authors
Mantak Chia is a Taoist Master. He is best known for his teaching Taoist practices under the names of Healing Tao, Tao Yoga, Universal Healing Tao System and Chi Kung. Throughout decades of teaching, he has run numerous workshops, written a series of books, and published a number of training videos. For this reason, some people call him an author, a teacher or a healer. He views himself primarily as a teacher, "who helps his students empower themselves through cultivation of their chi energy." He is the author of more than 55 books, including Healing Light of the Tao and Chi Self-Massage. For more about Mantak Chia, visit the website of the Universal Healing Tao.
Doug Hilton has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Calgary and has been a practicing counselor for more than 20 years. A certified Universal Healing Tao instructor, he is also certified in the emotional processing method of EMDR, level II. Visit his website at: www.fullcirclehealing.ca