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 stress-related diseases and disorders.

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 are at risk for sliding 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 challenges in our lives or the details of our life stories, the degree of functioning of our nervous system actually almost completely determines how we feel and respond to life's challenges. Mental balance, strength and resilience of the nervous system, grace, compassion, 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 releasing 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 and lasting response to external overloads. It consists of alterations 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, or changing to a more enjoyable job), 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 alone is finally able to dissolve 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 silent mantra meditation, which brings about a fourth state of the physiology and of consciousness, a unique state of the mind and body, in which the mind is quiet but alert and the body experiences very deep rest.

The Recent History of Silent Mantra Meditation

About 67 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 silent mantra meditation with everyone who would come and listen. Maharishi was the first to cast this basic 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 studies generated remarkable results that have been published in many peer-reviewed scientific journals over the years 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® is a form of silent mantra meditation, a simple, effortless, and natural technique which quickly reduces the metabolic activity of the body, while very gently and effortlessly keeping the mind alert.

Is NSR the same technique as Transcendental Meditation®?

NSR offers the world a lower-cost alternative to Transcendental Meditation®. Naturally, people ask us if NSR teaches the same technique as TM®.

The answer is no. NSR and TM® are very different procedures or methods for learning deep, life-transforming types of silent mantra meditation, and the organizations and teachers of their respective programs are not connected with each other.

NSR attempts to duplicate as many of the benefits and results of TM® as it can using a completely different teaching model. To keep our price as low as is possible, we eliminate the costly centers and trained teachers of TM®, substituting self-instruction from a 50-page manual and a short CD sent by mail, followed by the availability of four different forms of interactive support (two for free and two for a very small fee) to ensure that all questions and concerns are answered. This instruction procedure thus eliminates the puja (ceremony of gratitude), the initial in-person instruction, and the three days of in-person group instruction. Those who prefer the elements that are omitted from NSR are encouraged to learn TM®.

While we invite comparison with TM®, NSR stands on its own as a way to eliminate stress from the nervous system, thus bringing peace, happiness, intelligence, creativity, harmony, love, and success to life spontaneously. On a global scale, NSR has the goal of ending addictions, crime, selfishness, injustice, trauma, and war from national and international life. We accept that these goals are ambitious and may not be easily achievable in the short term. But, by reducing the stresses of its clients, NSR creates a positive and harmonious influence on the local level, which will tend to translate eventually to a positive and harmonious influence on the global level.

Mantra Meditation 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
The NSR approach to understanding and eliminating stress