Stress: a positive phenomenon

Stress is not an evil. It is an integral part of nature and a positive activity. Our body needs movement. If there were no physical activity in the body, it would be rendered lifeless.

Nowadays stress is a common concern. Despite the use of all kinds of de-stressing techniques, it remains unrelieved. In fact, most methods of de-stressing bring on a new form of stress – like holiday stress. The reason for this failure is that people are going against nature and that is why they are unsuccessful.

Stress is not an evil. It is an integral part of nature and a positive activity. Our body needs movement. If there were no physical activity in the body, it would be rendered lifeless. The same is true of the effect that stress has on the mind. Stress is an intellectual activity. It is a sign of a healthy mind. It is only if one is intellectually awakened that one is able to treat stress as a normal phenomenon, just like physical movement. It is stress that makes one’s mind alive. Without stress, intellectual processes come to a halt and this results in intellectual stagnation.

After making a detailed study of human history, Arnold Toynbee (1889 – 1975) propounded a theory according to which, ‘Man achieves civilization, not as a result of superior biological endowment, but as a response to a challenge in a situation of special difficulty which rouses him to make a hitherto unprecedented effort.’ Toynbee categorized challenges as either ‘crippling’ or ‘non-crippling’. A crippling challenge is bad, whereas a non-crippling challenge is equally good in that it stimulates nations to produce a civilization.

The same is true of stress. If man is unable to control stress, it will reach an abnormal state that is crippling; this kind of stress is fatal. But if one is able to control stress, it will remain within non-crippling limits and turn out to be a boon.

Let me give you an example. During the pre-independence era, there were two kinds of leaders: pro-Congress and pro-Muslim League. In those days, on a journey to Baharaich (Uttar Pradesh), I met Mr. Mehmood (LLB), a pro-Muslim League leader. He introduced me to an individual who was pro-Congress. I said to Mr. Mehmood, “Both of you belong to different rival groups, and yet you are keeping up your friendship. How is this?” He replied with a smile, “We have agreed to disagree.” By adopting this formula, they saved themselves from stress.

During a visit to the US, I stayed for a few days with a businessman who had been living there for forty years. I found that he remained stress-free at all times. Upon undergoing an unwanted experience, he would promptly say, “Chalo ye bhi theek hai!” (This is also okay!)

I experienced this myself. One day, I suggested that we should go sightseeing the following day. The next morning, he came to tell me that he was ready and had canceled all his engagements for that day. I told him that I was not in a mood to go and would rather stay at home. Without any complaint, he instantly said, “Chalo, ye bhi theek hai!” I told him, “You seem to be a different kind of person. Why?” He laughed and said, “God Almighty made me and threw the mould away!”

In life, you should not try to eliminate stress. Instead you should learn the art of stress management. Most often, stress is caused due to complaints against another person. Instead of developing a complaint, we must take it easy. Taking it as a complaint would turn it into ‘crippling stress.’ Taking it normally would turn it into a ‘non-crippling stress.’ Crippling stress causes problems whereas non-crippling stress keeps the mind active. Stress is a healthy sign. The only condition is to detach it from complaints and take it as a normal phenomenon.

Source: Living in Hope

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is an Islamic spiritual scholar who has authored over 200 books on Islam, spirituality, and peaceful coexistence in a multi-ethnic society.




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