If you were to eavesdrop on the conversations taking place around you, stress would likely be one of the most common words you would hear. People talk about feeling stressed about their work, the economy, global politics, deadlines, their relationships, and just about everything else. Many suffer from the emotional and physical consequences of chronic stress, which include accelerated aging and increased rates of heart disease, anxiety, cancer, depression, migraine headaches, and other serious disorders.
While stress is considered an epidemic problem, I’ve never believed that it exists in the environment or in external situations. At the Chopra Center, we define stress as our response to what is happening. It’s not the overdue payment, traffic jam, or fight with our spouse that causes stress
It’s our thoughts and the story we tell ourselves about an event or circumstance that create the emotional upset, racing heart rate, shallow breathing, surging adrenalin, and other symptoms of the stress response.
The analogy of a surfer is useful here: If you’re a skillful surfer, every wave is an exhilarating adventure or at least an opportunity to learn something new. If you’ve never learned how to surf, on the other hand, every wave is a terrifying potential disaster.