We all know about stress. Some of us live with a great deal of it. “Relax,” they say. “I wish I could,” is often my reply! There are so many stress inducers in our contemporary life. Our jobs are often good at inducing stress. Traffic sometimes does it while we are trying to get to our jobs. Health concerns have to be one of the major stress inducers. And of course, relationship issues are guaranteed stress inducers.
There are a few people who seem to me never have to worry about stress. Maybe that is because they never have to worry. Or they chose (somehow) not to worry. I don’t know how they do it. Perhaps, it is genetics. Maybe some folks are bred to have no stress inducers. No matter what happens, they are unflappable. But I am not like that.
Certainly, I think the kind of environment one grows up in has a great deal to do with stress. No doubt parents teach us a great deal. I do think they teach us how to stress out. When I ponder my own home environment, I think my parents were pretty good at teaching us how to stress. And when one is prepared to stress out, there usually are many opportunities to do it!
I have no illusions that life can be stress-free. No doubt, some jobs are less stressful than others. Maybe retirement brings less stressors in our lives. But then, health concerns likely become issues. Many of us already know what it is like to have bad news from a physician.
So what’s the answer? If stress is unavoidable for most of us, what, if any, choice do we have? I am no expert, but I do think spirituality is a key option. I think people who are spiritual are in a better position to cope with stress than those who are not.
Here is a good place to differentiate spirituality and religion. I am not against religion. I consider myself religious. But if religion only means believing in some things, i.e. God, Jesus, etc., then that is not what I mean. For me spirituality is first and foremost a matter of experience. To be spiritual means that I have experienced God. It means I hope to continue experiencing the Presence of the Holy One.
For me spirituality can be an effective stress buster. If I am spiritual, then I expect to have priorities in place. If I am spiritual, then hopefully I am grounded. Of course, it does not mean I hear bad news without being upset. I may even feel stress. But if I am spiritual, then I have perspective. I am connected. I might be rocked by bad news (or the anticipation of it), but I am not knocked out.
Furthermore, I think being authentically spiritual means I have a sense of humor. I recall the words of someone I know whom I consider to be spiritual. He says, “Humor helps us adapt to stress. Simple as that. Stress isn't an event. Stress is caused by our interpretation of events. Think of it this way-what causes a stress reaction for one person, is nothing to another. It is how we interpret an event.”
Spirituality shapes how we interpret events. Spirituality helps me see things with a sense of humor. It helps me not take myself too seriously. Sometimes I am the joke! There is such a thing as “gallows humor.” I have had terminally ill people make me laugh so hard I cried. They were not stressed. They were sick. They interpreted their situations clearly. But they could laugh. They were deeply spiritual.
I want to grow into that kind of spiritual depth. I want spirituality so clear and deep that I have a stress buster.