So with intro out the way, I wanted to share a few of the ways I’ve been managing my sky-rocketing stress levels, given that I live 5 minutes from the Old City of Jerusalem, where there’s recently been a huge number of people getting stabbed by Arab terrorists.
You can split the stress reaction into 3 parts: spiritual stress, emotional stress and physical stress, and to deal with it properly, you have to tackle it across all three areas.
How to defuse spiritual stress
You already know what I’m going to suggest, don’t you? Nothing but nothing defuses spiritual stress at its source except regularly talking to God, and putting God in the picture. In practice, that means internalizing that God is behind the stabbing terrorists, and that nothing can happen to me (or my family) unless God decrees it.
On the other side of the coin, that means that if God decrees something, there is no way of running away from it (although teshuva can still work wonders at any given moment). Again practically, that means working on my acceptance that God is running the world, and that He can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, to whoever He wants – and it’s good.
If that sounds like a tall order to manage, you’re right. It’s next to impossible to really internalize all these things without regular talking to God sessions. Every time I get hit with heavy-duty stress, I up my personal prayer. Often, I feel immediately better afterwards, but even on the rare occasions I don’t, the stressful situation, or my overwhelmed response to it, seems to change and improve rapidly after talking to God.
How to defuse emotional stress
Again, I’m going to focus on practical suggestions and skip all the deeper background stuff about achieving emotional balance and strengthening the three foundations of emotional health. (If you want more details about those things, take a look at Modules 3-5 of the free Talk to God online course, HERE.)
We need to feel that the world is fundamentally a safe place to be to maintain emotional equilibrium – which can be very difficult when you’re in the middle of a mini-war zone. Here’s what helps me to do that:
- Turn the radio off, and stop obsessively checking the news – I check as little as possible, usually just to find out if they’ve blocked any roads near my house or closed down the Old City, where my kid goes to school.
- Steer clear of doom-and-gloom websites and opinion pieces – there is something seriously cracked about all the bloggers out there who get so darned excited about what they believe is the impending end of the world. Terror can be stressful enough, without reading op-ed pieces from compassion-less crazies going on and on about how things are only getting to get worse. To paraphrase the Gemara, suffering is bad enough when it comes. You don’t need to suffer from anticipating it for years in advance.
- Minimise the time spent with chronic worriers, stressors and pessimists – as soon as people start trying to drag you into conversations about how ‘bad’ the situation is, and how ‘terrible’ you must be feeling, change the subject. This is a peculiar form of emotional vampirism where deranged people get their kicks from trying to hype up the difficulty, stress and concerns of others in dramatic situations. People asking how you’re doing, and if you need anything is kindness and concern. People telling you how bad you must be feeling about the situation is the opposite.
- Carry on doing ‘fun’ things that are not terrorist-related – sometimes, we think that just because it’s a ‘serious situation’ we’re obliged to walk around with a visibly stressed, miserable countenance. But the opposite is true! I’ve been going out of my way to try to smile at other people as much as possible, and to buy things for my home, and to make extra nice food for Shabbat.
Physical stress comes in many ways, shapes and forms, but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is definitely something we all need to be looking out for. PTSD occurs when you’ve been through chronic or acute stress, and some part of your primitive brain is still ‘replaying’ the stressful circumstances at a subconscious level, making you feel permanently wound-up and depleted.
PTSD symptoms include: memory loss, fuzzy brain, thinking the worse is going to happen, jumping at every little noise, inability to concentrate, difficulties sleeping, nightmares, disturbing flashbacks and disassociation, or ‘spacing out’. (If you live in Jerusalem, I guarantee you have at least 3 things on this list at the moment…)
diagram: strengthen bladder meridian acupressure points
- Strengthen the bladder meridian points – (see the diagram above) because bladder meridian governs the nervous system, and a lot of people’s nervous system is shot to pieces at the moment.
- Sedate large intestine meridian points – because large intestine is connected to trying to control things, and the more you try to control the more ‘out of control’ and stressed you can start to feel.
- Sedate Triple Warmer meridian – the home of the fight-or-flight response that gets permanently switched on with PTSD and situations of heavy-duty stress.
- Do some rounds of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT, or tapping ) or the Tapas Acupressure Technique - to dig out the roots of the stress at all levels of your psyche.
- Keep exercising – at least 30 minutes of something, 3 times a week.
- Use calming essential oils on your pillow – including lavender, marjoram, bergamot, to help you have a relaxed, good night’s sleep.
- Run away for a day – in my case, I went to Ikea for an evening and it worked wonders to break my hyper-stressful state. But taking a short break somewhere quiet to recharge your batteries is a good way to break the cycle of stress, and do the inner work required so you can come back into the stressful situation stronger, and more able to cope.