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“Sometimes by simply perceiving the cause of stress in a different way you can often reduce it.”

It’s that time of year again where the stress levels rise to their peak given the parental need to provide good Christmas cheer for the family. Being a parent in a time of economic hardship and feeling that pressure yourself calls out for a coping mechanism. So I wondered what the Buddhist approach would be.

Buddhism provides for the following stress coping strategies:

1. Impermanence and an acceptance that nothing lasts forever. ‘Things’, people, anxieties, stressful situations come and go. Sometimes they are heightened and other times they are non-existent. Think back to any stressful situation that you have been subject to in the past and note that it almost certainly had an end point.

2. Meditation as a form of relaxation with a focus on the breath or a mantra relaxes the mind. It effectively removes the person from the surrounding stressful situation.

3. Loving kindness or Meta awareness is a great way to focus outwardly on others in a positive way, thereby reaping the personal inward reward of compassion for one’s self. If others feel good then you are more likely to feel good.

4. Mindfulness of the present moment and not dwelling on the past or future brings the mind to a stable environment and a stress free haven in which to heal.

5. Karma or the law of causality lays the foundation for future stress free living. ‘What you sow you shall also reap’ and there are consequences for each and every one of your actions. Do a good deed and even if not immediately the consideration shown to others will be reflected back resulting in future non-suffering for you.

6. Morality or doing, saying, thinking the right ethical thing with sound intentions elevates the mind beyond a stressful situation. Acting morally and creating stress as you walk through life will only cause you stress in turn.

7. Right understanding or seeing with wisdom can lead to a reduction in personal fear and clarity of thought when you really need it. Seek out a logical understanding of any given stressful situation but don’t over analyse. Don’t tell yourself the story of how it should be in order to maximise your own position as this isn’t a realistic representations of events. Try to see situations as they truly are, with empathy, clarity and a spacious mind.

8. Interdependence or an appreciation that we are all connected at some level will allow you to see others as an extension of ‘you’. Hurting others is also hurting yourself either directly or indirectly.

9. Non-self or an appreciation of the transient nature of who you identify as ‘you’ has an impact on how you deal with stress. Visualise a memory from your childhood and think, was that me. There’s a scientific suggestion that the body completely regenerates itself every seven years or so. All your hair, skin and other bodily matter is in a continuous state of death and renewal. So it wasn’t who you consider as ‘you’ in the present that you visualised. So be detached and circumspect.

So do any of the above approaches work for you? I’d be interested to hear your comments.