Stress and Spiritual Practice

Life is full of challenges and sometimes a lot is required of us — the strength to stand up for what we believe, a fateful decision, intense conflict with a lot on the line. That’s stress. Of course, we do everything we can to meet our challenges — work hard, plan, strategize, prepare. But often the anxiety raised in such situations is not dissipated, even with all these activities. Your mind still races in the middle of the night. Your body is stiff and sore from tension. Rest doesn’t come easily. You exhaust yourself with endless trivial activity. What else is there to do?

Exercise can help regulate your body, but when your soul is anxious, you need to exercise it, too. In general, spiritual practices can help us explore and become more familiar with different aspects of our existence: yoga – our bodies and energy; journaling – our feelings and patterns of behavior; prayer – our sense of God; meditation – our mind and intuition. In stressful situations, we are less open to exploration and we may find ourselves avoiding our customary spiritual practice or feeling too tired to make the effort. It is tempting to skip your usual practice for a day or two, but continuing can be very helpful, too. Doing your spiritual practice — even half-heartedly — can provide some sense of normalcy and routine. Continuing your practice can help you process the stressful experiences and come to terms with your situation. Doing your spiritual practices even under stress can help you begin to find a way to welcome the challenges and find meaning even in the hardships. It is OK to take a break from spiritual practices when you need to, but keeping up your practices even when you don’t feel like it can also be a blessing.