Toward a New Definition of Stress

We live in stressful times. We are holding down two or more jobs. We are putting up with heavy job loads and unreasonable demands. We are swallowing outrage and frustration with unfair situations and irrational superiors because we cannot afford to be laid off or fired. Or we have already been laid off and we are struggling to find another job. Or we have given up and are coping with unemployment.

Outside strains like these are called stressors. Stressors are the barely-tolerable external pressures or challenges that bring us tension, unhappiness, and, eventually, problems such as anxiety, depression, and even stress-related diseases.

We all know people who hardly seem to be affected by stressors. They maintain a sense of perspective and a sense of humor. They remain calm in the midst of adversity and catastrophe.

But most people are overwhelmed even by a lesser number and intensity of stressors and tend to experience fears and anxiety, lose mental balance, and can evenually slide downhill, losing relationships, jobs, and even their mental and physical health. What makes the difference between these two kinds of people?

Inner Strength

While it may seem that our problems are entirely the result of the enormous stressors in our lives, the degree of functioning of our nervous system actually almost completely determines how we feel and respond. Which is better: to be exposed to few stressors but still be overwhelmed by them, or to be exposed to many stessors and respond with grace and humor? Mental balance, normal functioning of the nervous system, grace, and good humor are all aspects of natural inner strength.

The important question is why so many of us don't have the degree of inner strength that would protect us from stressors and would allow us to express our inner creativity and intelligence fully, resulting in a happy, productive, successful, and fulfilled life. That is, if inner strength is natural and normal for some people, what limits it for others? What causes inner weakness?

Stress: The Stored Effects of Overloads

Stressors can cause overloads of the nervous system. Examples include the physical and mental trauma of living through a car crash, enduring the pressure of working at multiple, or difficult jobs, or even receiving a sudden pleasant shock, such as of unexpectedly winning a lottery, inheriting a fortune, or catching sight of a beautiful sunset. The fact that we can relive these experiences in dreams (when our body is relesing stress accumulated during the day) and that they can stimulate our fight-or-flight hormones shows that they have a negative long-term effect on our health and happiness.

In this new approach we define stress as the response of the nervous system to stressors that are too large for it to handle. It is the internal result of external overloads. It consists of changes, or abnormalities stored in the nervous system that serve to protect us from repeated exposure to the same overloads by limiting our functioning or perception.

An analogy may help make this clear.

Consider modern buildings. Every modern building is protected from electrical fire by a system of separate electrical circuits, each protected by its own circuit breaker. A circuit breaker interrupts the current in the circuit whenever there is an electrical overload, whether caused by using too many appliances or by a short-circuit. In the absence of circuit breakers, the intense heat caused by a high current could result in a serious fire. If one or two breakers are tripped, the building still functions. One could run an extension cord from an outlet that is still working to where one needs electricity. It's not convenient when a circuit breaker snaps open, but it's much preferable to having a fire.

Like a modern building, we hypothesize that the human nervous system has a distributed "graceful degradation" mechanism that protects it from serious damage when it is overloaded. While we haven't as yet identified this mechanism in terms of anatomy or neurology, researchers can observe the very real negative physiological and mental effects of stressors on people over time, using measurable effects or markers such as reaction time, anxiety, trust, anger, memory, creativity, problem solving, skin resistance, EEG, blood pressure, and blood chemistry, among many others.

The Elimination of Stress

The only way to correct dead circuits in the electrical system of a building is to remove any problems like short circuits and too many appliances plugged into a power outlet, then go to the breaker panel and reset all the tripped circuit breakers.

The natural way (actually, the only way) to eliminate limitations caused by stresses stored in the human nervous system is to remove the worst of the stressors (for example, by getting treatment for a medical condition), then expose the nervous system to deep rest.

This parallel between how an electrical system works in a building and how the nervous system works in the human body is fairly close. In both cases, dysfunctions caused by overload can be eliminated or reversed.

We know that the deep rest we gain through sleep is refreshing; there can be no doubt that it helps eliminate stress. But it is clearly not enough to prevent the loss of creativity, intelligence, and joy that seems to plague many of us as we grow older. And it is frequently not enough to reduce stress-related disease, or ameliorate psychological problems. As an extreme but apt example, if we have a traumatic experience, we may have nightmares for years before sleep finally dissolves the resulting stress.

What we need is a natural method of gaining deep rest that is much more efficient than sleep or dreaming, because the rest is deeper. Does such a method exist? The answer is yes, and it's called transcending.

The Recent History of Transcending

About 60 years ago, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, at the time a secretary and disciple of a great spiritual leader in India (Brahmananda Saraswati), was asked to travel throughout the world, sharing the ancient Vedic knowledge of effortless transcending with everyone who would come and listen. Maharishi was the first to cast this basic bit of Vedic technique into terms easily understandable by any modern citizen of the world.

What emerged from his unexpectedly successful journey out of India was the formulation of Transcendental Meditation®, a seven-step course of personal instruction taught in TM® centers throughout the world. Scientific researchers were immediately attracted to this "new" technique as a result of their personal experiences and observations, and their hundreds of high- quality research projects generated remarkable results that have been published in many peer-reviewed scientific journals ever since.

We have learned from these studies that TM®generates a broadly beneficial and unique state of physiology that has been prosaically called "restful alertness", a state of rest that is much deeper than sleep.

More accurately, TM® teaches a simple, effortless, and natural technique called transcending, which quickly reduces the metabolic activity of the body, while very gently keeping the mind alert.

But Transcendental Meditation®, fortunately, holds no monopoly on this natural technique. Even though NSR© is taught in a very different way by a different organization, the actual effortless and natural mental technique that both teach is generic and identical (see description below).

The published NSR© research studies produced some of the same results as the Transcendental Meditation® studies, and our unsolicited testimonials describe much the same sorts of remarkably beneficial results, all of these results based on gradually eliminating stored stresses. We believe that this evidence suggest that NSR© provides a viable alternative to Transcendental Meditation® for learning transcending.

Transcending in Natural Stress Relief©

In only 15 minutes of practice twice a day, stresses that were incurred many years ago and that have prevented our full functioning are automatically released. Not only that, but the unhappiness, frustration, or tiredness resulting from our activities yesterday and today are washed away, leaving us relaxed and energized.

With the regular practice of NSR over a period of months and years, ever deeper stresses are released, continuously providing the possibility of releasing yet deeper stresses. It's like peeling off layers from an onion. Eventually, stresses of which we were not even aware (because we were so used to them) finally dissolve, giving us the flexibility and virtual immunity to stressors that is natural and spontaneous in a fully functioning nervous system.

This is the great value of eliminating internal stress. And anyone can do it easily and effectively by learning NSR© now.

See Also:

The Wikipedia article on Stress

Relationship with the Transcendental Meditation® Program

As described above, Natural Stress Relief© provides an inexpensive alternative to TM®, one that focuses on reducing stress, providing effective support when needed, and omitting the unnecessary mysticism often perceived by members of the public when they hear the TM message directly from TM teachers.

The heart of NSR© is the technique known as transcending. As explained in detail at this link, transcending is a unique practice leading to a unique state of consciousness. Whether taught by the NSR© or TM®organizations, transcending proves to be a remarkably effective method for producing a state of rest much deeper than sleep. This means that much deeper stresses can be dissolved.

The lawyers for TM® have asked us to state that these two systems of instruction are not in any way directly associated; they are in fact taught by completely different, unrelated, and indeed competitive organizations: see our comparison between these two systems of instruction. In the American spirit of improvement through competition we are proud and happy to offer the world an attractive alternative to TM® for practical stress reduction and the efficient and effective development of self- actualization.