Managing Stress

Note: At EAP, we help people make peace a priority. I do want to explain, EAP is not a religious program and is not a part of, or promotes any particular religion. EAP is aligned with anything that promotes universal peace, as well as empathy and compassion for all of humanity, the planet and its critters. I thought it important to state this at the start of this blog, as it has slightly heavier biblical connotations throughout.

It was reported in Forbes that 63% of the American population do not have the savings to deal with a $500 emergency. I heard a discussion on the radio the other day that indicated Australians were in a similar predicament. A report published last year by Pew Charitable Trusts found that of the 56% of people who said they had worried about their finances in the previous year, 71% were concerned about not having enough money to cover everyday expenses. Someone recently compared financial impotency to sexual impotency. The main difference was that men will tell you they are on Viagra before they will tell you they have credit-card problems.

This would suggest that over 50% of the population worry about their financial circumstances. This worry destroys inner-peace, which then compromises stillness. That said, the amount of money people possess is not always an indication of people’s stress levels. I personally know people who are financially secure who also have serious worries about their finances. I am also aware of people who have almost nothing, who never worry about their lack of finance. That being the case, financial worry, or any form of stress, is a learnt behaviour and less of a consequence of the circumstances in which one finds oneself.

By learnt behaviour, I am referring to a neural program. For example, in the development of a person’s consciousness about money, at some stage a series of neurons in the brain either connected to create a worry response to financial scarcity, or connected in a different pathway to maintain peace under the same circumstances. Not only was the response programmed, so was the definition of scarcity. This is true of any response that we have to any trigger, financial or otherwise. How we react, and the trigger tolerance, has all been programmed.

From this it can be deduced that if a neural program can be reprogrammed, then the way people respond to stress can change. This capacity to create new neural programs is one of the most exciting developments that has come to light in the last decade regarding scientific study of the brain. By choosing a set of behaviours or an understanding that results in a new response, a completely new set of neurons connect in the brain to create a new neural pathway. If the awareness of those new behaviours can be repeated sufficiently then that new pathway becomes stronger, and the old pathway that resulted in stress becomes weaker. It’s a bit like a muscle. The more a muscle is exercised the bigger and stronger the muscle gets. The less a muscle is used the more it atrophies. With this newly developed neural pathway, a totally new response emerges when a trigger arises.

I don’t wish to offend anyone by sharing a Biblical metaphor, or by calling a religious story a metaphor, but there is a wonderful story in the New Testament where Jesus explains about this new neural program. He is with his disciples on a sailing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Tired from his full day of activity Jesus falls asleep at the back of the boat. While sleeping a storm arises, which puts the boat and everyone in it at peril. But Jesus keeps sleeping. Eventually someone wakes him up saying, “Master, don’t you care that we are going to perish?” In other words, Jesus Christ (he can say that because he is actually talking to Jesus), this is getting very serious! How can you sleep at a time like this? We are all going to die!

Jesus stands up and in three words gives the formula for developing a new neural pathway. He says, “Peace, be still”. That’s it, that’s all he has to say. The scriptures go on to observe that the winds ceased, and there was a great calm. Now metaphorically the element of air has an association with that part of human consciousness we call the mind. Whether is was intentional or otherwise, this story explains that the state of mind that causes you to become emotionally troubled (or to continue the¬†metaphor, a stormy sea), as happens with stress, can be transformed.

Jesus was fast asleep on a pillow, and at the back of a boat during a tempest at sea. He was asleep because he was in a state of stillness. When you get stressed, what happens to your sleep? I bet you toss and turn like a boat in a tempest. It’s such a beautiful metaphor. Your old neural pathway has been programmed by fear, including the prospect of death. In this state, we resort to anger, abuse, withdrawal, sickness (as a health professional for over 35 years I saw many lower back problems triggered by financial stress), and suicide to name a few. And the solution, peace, be still.

So the new neural objective is stillness, through choosing a pathway of peace. This is very important to understand. You have to be clear what your priority is, what it is that you are now choosing to value. The priority is the new neural reality. This has to be a conscious choice. You are going to have to write this down, you are going to have to put reminders everywhere in your life. You might even choose to create a vision board with pictures and words and symbols that represent stillness and peace. A timely reminder, the priority isn’t for example, financial relief, it’s peace.

I can remember some 20 years ago choosing to use gold coloured, heart shaped stickers to remind me that stillness and peace were my priorities. I put the stickers everywhere. In my car, around the house, on my golf sticks (a very important place to remind me of peace as a priority), in the shed, everywhere. Wherever I went in my world I would see these stickers, reminding me to choose peace as my priority. Just a couple of years ago I came across one of these stickers and was immediately reminded to choose peace.

Two significant things happen when your new pathway is aligned with stillness.

  1. You heighten your awareness, allowing you to be more receptive to your intuition and divine guidance. Both having the potential to guide thoughts and actions to finding solutions to your predicaments.
  1. You enter a parallel reality that among other things is full of grace. This grace is a cornucopia of abundance. This is another way of saying, miracles happen. The last thing Jesus says to his disciples on the boat, …how is it that you have no faith. How many of you have lost faith in miracles? That said, I bet there are many of you who have experienced miracles, but have just forgotten they happen.

In his Sermon on the Mount he says, seek first (prioritise) the Kingdom of God. In modern vernacular we call this is a parallel reality. Paul describes what this parallel reality looked like. He starts by saying it’s not material in nature, but included righteousness (which shares the same root as the word justice – seeing social injustice and responding to it), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. John referred to the Holy Spirit as the Comforter – joy in being comforted. Then Jesus immediately goes on to say that all of the material needs that you have will be provided.

Ok, I know this is probably a little heavy, but these are very profound principles for overcoming financial stress and worry, or any other neural pathway that causes us to stress, be exhausted or suffer. Next blog I will clearly explain how you can maintain peace as your priority. I will give you some really practical things you can do that will make that possible.

COMMENTS (2)
Reply

Great post Russell. I have not seen that perspective before of placing the priority not on financial freedom, but on peace and stillness, although it is obvious. Its like taking a step back looking at the deeper issues and root causes of our condition instead of the symptoms.

    Russell Sturgess
    Reply

    Yes, that and staying open to being blessed by the ‘winds of grace’. Taking that step back is a lovely way of describing being the observer. This could be called a radical approach to financial freedom!

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