Fear and Regret: There are no other sources of stress in the world. Look at the stress that you have. It has to come from one of the two: either fear of something that will happen in the future, or regret over something that happened in the past. This to me was a key realization that helped me manage stress better.
Fear takes over emotions, thoughts, and even physical body. It paralyzes. Much of human agony comes from fear. Even anger, stems from fear. Fear is always in the future. You see things or think of things that make you fear for the future. Fear is never about the present moment. You are always afraid of what is coming. But the present moment is fear free.
My readings about fear by experts on the subject show that fear cannot be about something in the present time.
Some say that FEAR stands for “Fake Evidence Appearing Real.” Fake because it is not reality. It is what you think will happen in the future. It might never happen. but your mind tells you that it will and you become afraid.
Another source of stress is regret. while fear is about the future, regret is always about the past. Regret causes stress because of our inability to accept the past. something happened and we wish it happened differently or we acted differently. Regret is clearly useless; it is something that has happened already and there is nothing to do about it to change it. It is done. But we as humans let go of the moment we own; the present moment, to chase a past that is no longer there, except in our mind and thoughts.
Both regret and fear are useless. I know someone would argue that fear and regret prevent us from doing stupid things in the future. I can relate to that, but when we look at the amount of mind space fear and regret take, they become counter productive. The problem is that people cannot stop the train of thought, and go into long periods of repeating the same thoughts over and over.
The funny thing is that we sometimes get into what a sage once termed as “double dhukas”: Double Dhuka is when we regret regretting. Or when we fear fearing. This is a sad state. For example, let us say I said something to a friend that I regret. I think about it, and get emotional. I feel bad. I feel stressed. Then I start telling myself how bad stress is for me, so I start getting angry or fearful because I am stressing myself. So, I am stressed because I am stressed. This is double dhuka. If that is not enough for some, they go into triple dhuka. You guessed it: Feeling stressed over being stressed for being stressed.
What is the way out from this madness?
Acceptance. This means being aware of what is happening, and observing it without reacting to it. This can easily be done (with practice it becomes easier) by observing thoughts going through your mind. Observing emotions. Observing physical sensations caused by the fear or regret. Then labeling these feelings as sadness, or anger, or fear, etc.
Most of us are taken by fear. It is bound to happen. But how often this happens, and how we deal with it makes all the difference.
Some try to eliminate feel and regret from their lives. I think that might be a far fetched endeavor. Some have reached this state, but this is rare and takes years. Most of us have to do with managing stress instead of trying to eliminate it. Manage it means observing it, being aware of its causes, and one’s reaction to it. Being aware of one’s mental state and emotions at any given time definitely helps.
A deep breath brings one back to the present moment, which reduces stress. Observing beauty around us reduces stress also. Looking at the face of a loved one, a child, or a random smiling face. In other words: observing beauty in things we usually take for granted.