Tai Chi Chuan and Stress

Managing Stress In Life

Stress is an unavoidable consequence of life. However contrary to popular belief, stress, or more precisely the stressors around us, are not necessarily harmful. As a positive influence, they can help compel us to action. They provide us with the means to realise our true potential so that we can express our talents and energies fully. Stress can result in a new awareness and give us fresh perspective, adding excitement and diversity to our lives. We all thrive under a certain amount of pressure, and increased stress can result in increased productivity and satisfaction – up to a point.

Stress though, also has a strong negative influence. It can cause exhaustion and illness, both physically and mentally.

Emotionally, it can bring about feelings of anger, depression, rejection and unhappiness. Often stress can manifest itself physically too and can affect any of the systems within our body.  It can present itself as gastrointestinal disturbances, like abdominal upset or peptic ulcers. It can also affect our cardiovascular system, bringing high blood pressure and an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Neurologically too, it can manifest itself as headaches, and even insomnia. Indeed stress’s negative effects have become more apparent with the hustle and bustle of today’s society. Recent studies have shown that 75 – 90% of all visits to primary health care centres are due to stress- related problems, and as a result our economies have lost billions through the high level of sickness. Time magazine refers to stress as ‘…our leading health problem…’ Negative stress has a marked effect on our lives causing physical, emotional and behavioural disorders, which can affect our health, vitality and peace of mind as well as our professional and private interpersonal relationships.

Stress then is an entity that must be kept in balance like yin and yang. Stress is not only about the external factors in our environment that are put upon us, but is as much to do with our own individual ability to deal with stressors we encounter. What may be stressful and distressing to one, may be enjoyment and pleasure to another. There is no one level of stress that is optimal for all people. We are all individuals with unique abilities and requirements and as such our intentions should not be to disband stress completely, but to find our own ideal level of stress, which will individually motivate but not overwhelm us. Too much stress may bring a negative experience that is the result a substantial imbalance between demand and capability. Too little stress or without any stress at all, and life would become dull and tedious. Much like the stress on the strings of the Chinese musical instrument, the Pipa, too little tension will produce a muffled and dull tone. Too much and the string will shrill and break. However just the right amount will bring the perfect note. Stress, like anything else in life, must be kept in harmony and in balance.