Stress comes in countless forms, and for many, is a constant, nagging companion that weighs us down, blinding us to the brilliant beauty all around us, sapping our strength and energy, and leaving us feeling tired, frustrated, anxious and dull. Stress keeps us from fully enjoying the present, from appreciating the past and from looking forward to the future. Stress wreaks havoc with our emotions, our health and our relationships. Stress keeps us operating at just a small fraction of our true potential- like a fruit tree whose roots and branches are choked out by weeds and therefore whose harvest is meager and bitter compared to what it has the potential of being.

Stress truly has a multitude of negative effects on our lives and it manifests itself in a myriad of different symptoms. But I'm about to make a really bold claim.

While the manifestations of stress are many, the causes of stress are one and therefore its cure is one!

Sound overly simplistic? I understand why you might think that- especially if you have an advanced degree of some kind from a University. Yet that is my claim-- arrived at after many years of study, searching and experimenting with life and despite my own University and post graduate degrees.

What is that cause? What is that cure? Here it is- right up front- no teasers, no beating around the bush:

CAUSE: Being out of alignment with our true divine nature.

CURE: Becoming aligned with our true divine nature.

That's it in a nutshell. Problem solved? Not yet- not even close- but at least understanding this one thing puts us on the right path- the path of cause and not effect. The deeper path of source and not the many dead end surface paths of symptoms. The true "road less traveled." This path will not just bring temporary relief of stress, but a fundamental increase in your capacity to see clearly and quickly what is out of alignment within and fix it yourself.

My writings are dedicated to the cause of helping you get on this deeper path of inner divine alignment and make the "journey within" that will be a lifetime journey, and really a timeless journey beyond just a brief lifetime. The relieving of stress is really just one of many bonuses to making this journey. It is one of the first signs that you are on the right path. The further you go on this journey down the right path, the more peaceful and less stressful you will feel- because the more peaceful and more aligned with your own divinity you will become.

The goal of my writing is to help you discover and connect to your own "divine" nature and then regularly "align" with that nature so that you can more effectively "shine" in your world- by loving, lifting and serving those around you and making the contribution to your world that you were meant to make. I've created what I call the Divine-Align-Shine model of spiritual and personal growth which I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with as it is the underlying framework of my writings. But right now, let's continue to explore stress and how it manifests itself in our lives.

So, even though we've now covered that all stress has one cause, it's important to be more aware of the many different symptoms or manifestations of stress so we can better recognize it in our lives.

Physical Level
On the physical level stress manifests itself in:

headaches
tight/stiff muscles
stiff neck
dry mouth
shallow breathing
low energy

to name just a few symptoms. Eventually if we don't relieve the stress, these "minor" physical symptoms will begin to manifest in a multitude of "major" physical diseases
("dis-ease" is just another name for stress). The list is too long- and probably more inclusive than current medical science will admit- although doctors and medical researchers have already linked stress as a causal factor in hundreds of diseases.

Of course genetics and diet are causal factors as well- but really it's all linked. We each come with our own unique genetic weaknesses and pre-dispositions. Stress will manifest itself in the "dis-ease" that each one of us is genetically pre-disposed to be weakest for- in other words, stress will find the weakest link in the system first.

Stress eventually breaks down our physical body by first blocking the natural flow of the energy body and then disrupting the natural weather patterns of the emotional body. This in turn causes us to engage in non-productive habits of unhealthy eating, drinking, and other stress "coping" mechanisms- thus creating a negative spiral that eventually shows up on the level of the physical or surface body.

Emotional Level
On the emotional level stress manifests itself in a wide range of feelings- here are some in order of increasing negativity:

irritation
impatience
overwhelm
disappointment
frustration
worry
doubt
discouragement
blame
anger
rage
hatred
revenge
insecurity
envy
guilt
unworthiness
depression
despair
hopelessness

These are all emotional "re-actions" meaning, responses to some thought that is believed as true.

Thought Level

While stress manifests itself in the physical and emotional realms, a closer examination will show that there is a deeper causal realm underneath both body and emotion- that is the realm of thought.
All stress- when examined closely enough, will ultimately reveal itself as a thought or belief. These stressful thoughts or beliefs come in many varieties, but they are all related and none of them are unique to you.

That's right, sorry to break it to your inner victim, you're problems are not unique. In fact they've been around since the beginning of history. And they all have one thing in common-

They all RESIST WHAT IS.

Some of the basic families of stressful "resisting what is" thought are:

1) The "SHOULD BE DIFFERENT" family. Something or someone SHOULD BE DIFFERENT than it is. Most of our relationship stresses and general dissatisfaction with life fall into this category.

2) The "NOT GOOD ENOUGH" family. You are somehow NOT GOOD ENOUGH to do this or that, or someone else is better or more talented or more capable. Most of our fears that hold us back fall into this category.

3) The "TRYING TO CONTROL THE UNCONTROLLABLE" family. Wanting things or people or anything else outside of your control to change, but not able to change them (surprise, surprise).

What is in your control? It's a really short list- so short it has only one thing in it: YOUR BEHAVIOR.

Most of our worries and anxieties about the future fall into this category.

4) The "ATTACHMENT TO THE TEMPORARY" family. Wanting things to stay the same when by their very nature that is impossible. Death, disease, loss, betrayal, aging and more fall into this category.

Being Layer

But there is even a deeper, more causal layer than thought- and that layer is BEING. When we are BEING who we really truly are at our core (which is rarely for most of us), stress is not possible. We are BEING our true selves when we are ALIGNED with our spiritual essence- our DIVINITY within.

Stress vs. Tension

There is an important distinction to be made between STRESS and TENSION. We've already covered stress pretty well, so now a brief discussion of Tension.

Tension is an integral part of life- it is a built-in growth mechanism we all have- a yearning to do it all and have it all, but a reality that we have to make choices in life. Often the choice is not black and white between good and bad. We often have to choose between good, better and best and find ways to balance it all.

The feeling of having more to do than time to do it in is a good thing- it's a sign that you're living a full and active life. Sometimes that can feel like stress, but it's qualitatively different. It's a positive tension caused by having to make choices between good things.

If you feel positive tension in your life- you should welcome it and get used to it- because it will be with you FOREVER if you plan to create rather than react through life and if you plan to create and progress eternally beyond this life.

On the other hand if your idea of "heaven" is to float around on a cloud and play the harp or sing in a heavenly choir of angels for eternity, then maybe you don't have to get used to the concept of tension. However, if you give it much thought, I think you'll agree that having NO TENSION sounds like a REALLY DULL EXISTENCE- both here on earth and in the eternities.

While tension is positive and progressive, stress is negative and stifling which is why it has such a negative effect on our bodies, emotions and minds. Our objective then is to learn how to eliminate negative stress while living a life full of positive tension.

The Four Ways We Manage Stress

Now that we've covered what causes stress, next we'll discuss how we manage stress. There are 4 basic ways- 3 that don't really work, and one that does. But that's in a seperate article called "The Four Types of Stress Management."

Author's Bio: 

John Groberg writes on a wide variety of topics related to personal and spiritual growth. His slogan is Grow. By Choice™. His articles draw out principles of personal and spiritual growth common to the world’s ancient wisdom and spiritual texts as well as many of the great philosophers, poets, and writers of ancient and modern times. These principles are then put to the test in his own life with an emphasis on simple, sustainable practices we can apply in our daily lives to more effectively deal with the stresses and struggles of modern life and to more fully realize the benefits of deliberate growth. John developed a model called the Divine-Align-Shine model as a way of visually organizing the principles, practices and the overall process of personal and spiritual growth. His writings are cataloged and organized on his website, johngroberg.com where contact information is available.