Well, what is the best way to cope with stress? Let us discuss this under the following second five categories:
The 80 per cent law. This law is useful for perfectionists. Perfectionists expect their lives to be 101 per cent, and if anything is not what they expect it to be they feel it is the end of the world. Since the world is a real world and is always short of 101 per cent, they are forever disappointed, dissatisfied, and distressed. Let us go back to our school-days. If you scored 80 per cent in an examination, you felt content and happy. Our lives cannot be 100 per cent all the time. Our problem is that, when stressed, we magnify that 20 per cent that is not doing well and let it become exaggerated to ruin whatever we have achieved already. In times of disappointment
and stress, be optimistic and look at the 80 per cent This is similar to a psychological test for identifying optimists and pessimists. A glass is filled with milk to half way. The optimist will say the glass is half full; the pessimist will say it is half empty.
What do we do with our biological reactions? There are two ways to deal with this locked up energy which has nowhere to go, as modem stress does not normally require physical action. One way is to let it out by some action, like punching the car, although my patient told me it did not make him feel any better; in fact it made things worse. When a person gets upset, it is quite common for him to throw things at the alleged enemy, usually the husband or wife. I always admire the Greeks for their wild parties, in which people throw and crack plates by the dozen. This is probably a more controlled and socially acceptable kind of release. The other ways of letting off steam is through exercise—walking for hours, playing golf or tennis, swimming, riding a bike, etc. All these are good ways of coping with the excess energy built up through the normal biological reaction to stress. Or there are relaxation exercises, whereby this energy is absorbed back into the system and put to a more constructive use. Differrent forms of relaxation exercise exist in different cultures: yoga, transcendental meditation, Tai Chi, and self-hypnosis are examples.
Coconut, apple, or tomato? Whether or not a situation stresses us depends on how we perceive it. A certain situation may be stress for one person, but a source of pleasure for another. Jumping out of a plane is a real stress to most of us, but there are a lot of people who enjoy it as a sport. The level of anxiety produced by a stressful situation is dependent on the person who is experiencing the stress. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and it is the same with stress and pleasure.
Tao and Chinese philosophy. Chinese philosophy very enlightening. Tao' is the Chinese philosophy of The Way'. In this philosophy, our lives follow a mysterious way and may not be under our full control. We may experience disappointment at one point in time, but further along the way this disappointment may turn out to be a blessing. To illustrate this, read this short story of a farmer and his son.
Once upon a time, there was a farmer who had a teenage son. He was a good man who believed in the philosophy of Tao. One day his son went hunting. He found and captured a fast white horse which was running wild in the countryside. He brought the horse back to the village. The villagers were very excited. They all came and congratulated the father. However, the father was not excessively excited, but smiled and said: This is the way, this is the way'. The son rode the horse every day and enjoyed himself. A few months later, there was an accident. He fell off the horse and broke both legs. He was unable to walk, and had to sit in a chair all day. The villagers were all shaken and came to express their sorrow. They were surprised to find that the father was not excessively sad. The father said: This is the way, this is the way'. A few months later war broke out in the country. AH the young men in the village were conscripted into the army. The villagers were proud of these young men as they were fighting for their country. Battle drums were beating loud, and these young men were expected to destroy the enemy and bring back honour and glory. The son who had broken his legs was still on crutches and was not able to join the army. The father said: This is the way, this is the way'. A few weeks later it was learned that they had lost the battle. The young men of the village were killed in an ambush, and there were no survivors. The only young man left in the village was the son with the broken legs. The father said: This is the way, this is the way'.