Stress and anxiety are closely related. Prolonged stress over a period of days, weeks, or months usually produces anxiety - maybe even dangerous, health-stealing anxiety.
I have a good friend who has been prone to anxiety attacks.
These are very difficult to witness. Sometimes they're called panic attacks.
The worst part of such attacks is a terrible inability to breath - almost like having a powerful invisible hand around your throat - or a huge weight on your chest and mid-section, making it impossible to breath.
Other awful symptoms of extreme stress and anxiety include a very rapid pulse and soaring blood pressure.
Stress and anxiety in lesser amounts can also be devastating - especially if the anxiety continues or happens repeatedly over weeks or months.
One of my favorite books is Quiet Your Mind by John Selby. The subtitle of the book is "an easy-to-use guide to ending chronic worry and negative thoughts and living a calmer life."
This book has been my only contact with John Selby - so I've been glad to see recently that he has an extensive program offering help to those many individuals who suffer from chronic stress and anxiety.
Quiet Your Mind fell into my hands because my wife, Joyce, bought it on the recommendation of a friend and classmate in an art class at a local community college.
Selby shows that most stress and anxiety comes from within.
I know several stressed, even anxiety-ridden individuals, who would vehemently disagree.
They would argue profusely - citing all the problems we're going through during these trying times - the terrible economy, upheaval and conflict between the two political parties, the terrorist threat, global warming, and on and on and on.
Some of those individuals read a lot, both online and hardcopy news and information sources.
Others hardly stay informed at all. They get their information from the tube, or from gossipy friends and neighbors.
Both types of individuals really know very little about what is really going on, unless they are actually in the middle of the fray. Even then, it's impossible to have complete knowledge of both sides to each argument, because if you are on one side you will be dominated by the information from that side.
So how involved should we allow ourselves to be?
How much stress and anxiety are you willing to live with?
If we actually invest ourselves by taking a strong stance with emotional involvement, it's nearly automatic that we will think, think, and think some more.
The arguments go on and on, especially within our own minds.
Stress develops, then anxiety.
But it is quite possible to adopt a present moment approach for every problem in which you are actually involved.
For example, not many of us are actually involved as politicians, but as we consider various political philosophies, we do ourselves a huge favor if we limit our own emotional investment.
It's quite entertaining to look at the political situation in a detached way.
Allowing stress and anxiety to be part of our daily experience is an internal thing. We don't have to allow it.
But some folks seem to live for it. The resulting constant complaining would indicate that to be true.
I guess that's okay, if they can always approach it with laughter.
When it's all part of the building of stress to the point of anxiety, something different needs to happen.
Nearly every book I've read about self-help and self health discusses stress and anxiety as internal problems.
If the victim of panic attacks sees a medical doctor, he or she will likely prescribe some powerful drugs to deal with it the situation.
The drugs themselves become a big part of the problem, and they never actually get to the root of the problem. They only serve to hide the problem, creating the need for more drugs.
For many folks, meditation is still a foreign concept - almost scary.
For others, it has been tried repeatedly with no lasting result.
If you fall into one of those two categories, maybe your view of meditation is incorrect.
Meditation can be described as a very simple process. It consists of being totally aware in the present moment.
To do so all thought needs to cease. The mind is fully alert and quiet.
Easy to describe, but not easy to do, though for some, it comes naturally and is quite easy.
For me, it's easy - though it has taken a lot of years to get to this point. For Joyce it's still difficult.
For those who really need it the most, it's often very difficult.
The racing mind - the mind of many highly intelligent people along with minds of those who are not gifted, races non-stop, almost day and night.
Most of that mind activity consists of repetitious drivel - often self-recriminating drivel.
Several techniques are given by numerous teachers for slowing the thought stream, and bringing it to a halt.
One is to consciously observe your breathing while listening for or feeling your heart beat. As Selby tells us, concentrating on these two gentle inner functions simultaneously will cause the inner chatter to stop.
Learning to do this successfully is only the beginning, but the exercise can be very helpful as a way to learn first hand that you are not your mind.
That last short phrase, you are not your mind, comes directly from Eckhart Tolle.
Very few of us had ever considered this possibility before hearing it from a teacher such as Tolle.
Maybe you heard it from some one else - possibly couched in different words - probably more words.
The fact that you have control over your mind - that you can actually stop its incessant chatter - provides clear evidence that Tolle and others are correct.
So, if I want to enjoy a stress-free life, the first step is to learn how to stop the constant inner chatter of my own mind. Then, whenever it starts up with its constant barrage of judgments of others or judgment of me, I can turn it off.
After days, weeks, then months of practice, knowing that I have control over my thinking mind, I can make the inner silence - the calm peacefulness - a habit and a way of living.
Tolle also lets us know that there is no such thing as a perfect situation - unless I am completely surrendered to what is - or completely surrendered to the present moment. Then every situation is perfect.
After years or decades of being dominated by the thinking mind with stress building from inner turmoil, it can take considerable time to change the situation.
The first time I read or tried to read The Power of Now by Tolle, it made no sense to me.
Months later, after having read parts of Selby's book, Quiet Your Mind, and after reading some other books - especially Antonio Damasio's The Feeling of What's Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness, returning to The Power of Now, I began to realize the amazing truth.
I am not my mind. The mind is an amazing tool - but it's necessary to learn to control it in order to live free from fear, stress and anxiety.
The mind is a terrible thing to waste. We've seen and heard that bumper sticker saying a lot, haven't we?
But the mind can be a terrible thing, period.
It can tear you apart with feelings generated by continuous repetitive thought - some of it accusing and judging you.
Once you learn to control your mind, it becomes your slave - and it is an incredibly powerful slave.
If you don't control it, you are the slave of your mind.
Some people, maybe many - somehow determine that what they're hearing internally is the voice of God - or in some cases, the voice of the devil.
We're surrounded by so much external noise - much of it purporting to be sound advice from knowledgeable people.
It can take many years to separate truth from confusion and propaganda.
You can't go wrong with Tolle or Selby. You may have to invest some time and a little money.
The payoff is being able to permanently bid farewell to stress and anxiety without resorting to medications - which only add to the stress.Return to Stress Free Living from Stress and Anxiety