Reduce stress and cultivate mindfulness and self-compassion

Param Yonzon, Contributing Writer

With the school year just starting, there are many students who will experience a great deal of stress. Not only will we have to deal with school work, but some of us have internships, extracurriculars, applications for grad schools,standardized tests, and on top of all that, our social lives to attend to.

We all want a break from our hectic schedule. My schedule is usually packed because I’m part of the men’s soccer team, I take classes in Manhattan, I’m working a part time job and I’m also having to apply to competitive internships for next summer already.

I know that I’m not the only one with a busy schedule though. So many of us have things to do from the minute we are up in the morning, until we have to go to bed. Our stress builds up from day one of the school year and by the end of the semester, which happens to go by so fast, some of us even have mental breakdowns from all the stress.

Well, I’m here today to tell you that stress rarely comes from events that we think are causing it. It’s not from the the external events at all. The real source of stress is actually an internal problem.

I know this is hard to believe because when do you feel the most stressful? At the end of the semester, when all your work piles up, you have tests on tests on tests, and you also have more extra curricular meetings than ever. The timing is the worst too! I know that when I’m stressed, I start breaking out and my health becomes the least of my worries.

I used to blame the “feeling” of stress on external events as well. This was wrong. In actuality, stress never comes from external events. It comes from within.

According to Dr. David Hawkins, an internationally renowned psychiatrist and spiritual lecturer, the feeling of stress comes from the inner pressure of repressed emotions and overthinking. In his book, “Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender,” Dr. Hawkins says that the “repressed feelings and the process of overthinking make us vulnerable to external stress”.

What does that even mean?

It means that the stress you feel at the end of a semester is not from all the external work that has piled up, but from internal, repressed feelings and overthinking the work you actually have to do. I know that I, as well as most people I know, tend to really complicate and exaggerate how much work they have to do.

We create a story in our head saying “Oh my goodness, there is no possible way that I could finish this in the amount of time I have.”

Perhaps you are right! But more than often we are wrong. The number one person we lie to is ourselves. The story that we tell ourselves is what makes the pain and stress even worse.

This is how I deal with stress now…

Removing stress starts with becoming more mindful of your emotions and thoughts. I usually state out loud or in my head: “I am aware that I am feeling this way.”

Once one starts to cultivate this mindfulness, the next step is letting go. Letting go doesn’t mean attempting to stop this emotion. It means letting the emotion stay, yet watching how you feel.

It is like watching yourself from a third person movie. You are viewing yourself as a separate being, which also means that you and your feelings are not the same thing. You are not your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. You don’t need to try to control them. You just need to accept them and then come to the present moment and control what you do.

There is a tendency to have so many thoughts when surrendering to your feelings. Sometimes I think “I can’t surrender to this feeling. I feel bad. I don’t want to feel bad. This is not a comfortable feeling.” Ignore these thoughts. Thoughts are absurd make-beliefs that obscure the truth. Pursing thoughts can keep us occupied endlessly. One day we will realize that we are back where we started.

Thoughts are like snowflakes that look pretty, unique, and interesting. And like snowflakes, they eventually just melt away one day. Understanding that you and your feelings are not the same, is the first step to actualization. Stay with the feeling; embrace it. Let go of wanting to change your feeling.

After one starts to surrender themselves to the emotion and let the emotion reside, the feeling of stress will tend to leave naturally. This is how one starts to become more mindful and aware of their true self.