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"Unnatural Fatigue"
- by Sören Grind

 

Unnatural Fatigue

– stress in relation to depression and burn-out

 

By Sören Grind

Many people nowadays are unable to cope with the mental and physical strain brought about by increased levels of stress. Unnatural fatigue and burn-out are for many a turning point, in which the quality of their thoughts and the need for spiritual nourishment become the key issues in the healing process.


The accelerated rate of our evolution
Stress is a mental condition that in an ever greater number of people can be seen to have an increasingly harmful effect on mind and body. More and more people are showing symptoms of stress or suffering from unnatural fatigue and depression as a result of burn-out. An important factor in this steep increase in stress-related problems is life's accelerated rate of evolution.

Ever since the arrival of electricity into our daily lives, technological developments have given rise to an ever growing stream of information and communication through television, radio, internet and the mobile telephone. Our consciousness is receiving information and impressions that need to be sorted and processed to a far greater degree than in the farming communities of the past. Many of us have got used to eating at the same time as listening to the radio, reading the paper and carrying on a conversation. We need to take something in through all our senses. If life is too calm, we become restless. For many people stress has become a habit similar to an addictive substance.

Over the course of the last century we have also stimulated the development of the intelligence by raising the school leaving age and through greater access to knowledge and cultural events. With the help of electric light we have extended the number of hours in the day when we can be active, and have shortened the time for resting and sleeping. Our biological brain does not seem to have been able to catch up at quite the same rate. Many times a day we are faced with a great many choices and decisions that require awake thinking and imagination in areas that were previously totally unknown to us. This expansion of the consciousness is, in the evolutionary sense, new-born and therefore vulnerable. Nothing is born perfect. Our present speeded up and restless thinking will give us the experiences and challenges that will enable us to learn step by step how to have calmness, speed and clarity in our thinking.

Technology together with the development of intelligence has also freed us from many heavy, physical tasks and has led many more people into sedative, mental work. In a short time our lives have become primarily a mental activity. The brain is suffering from growing pains and for many people the body has been reduced to something that merely carries the head around.


Stress – an animal survival mechanism

The purpose of the stress hormones that are released when we feel threatened is to prepare us for the physical fight for survival. We either need strength in order to overcome our opponents or energy in order to flee. In certain cases the easiest way to survive is to play dead. Nowadays, however, these reactions are seldom relevant. If a bus driver is rude, it is totally inappropriate to knock him to the ground or to play dead. The threats we receive these days are mostly on the psychological level and we therefore have to deal with them on that level.

As a result of our growing intelligence we have developed the ability to speculate and dream up all kinds of imaginary threats. In certain areas we have become absolute geniuses in our ability to speculate. We worry about our finances, or about whether something will happen to our children, or about whether our partner or close friend will leave us. We experience our self worth, pride or prestige as under threat, especially when we are under pressure at work or during times of unemployment.


Our body is not able to tell the difference between something imaginary and something real

If we are out for a walk alone on a dark evening and suddenly have the thought that there is someone walking behind us, we will notice how there is an increase in tension in the body. The heart will beat faster, the senses will be sharpened and we will begin to walk faster. When we gain the courage to look behind us, it turns out that there is no one there. It was just a thought, but our body took it in all seriousness.

Our stress hormone system reacts to all thoughts that indicate danger. That was what saved us in the animal kingdom. An antelope that, thanks to its stress reaction, managed to avoid the attack of a lion, will immediately afterwards begin to calmly graze again. Present-day human beings on the other hand continue to speculate over what happened and in so doing they maintain the automatic readiness for the fight. Every single imagined threat causes an increase in stress, whether it is the feeling of being physically threatened, the fear of a serious illness, the loss of a meaningful relationship, the fear of being an outsider or of not being able to keep up with one's work. The key issue in handling stress is therefore to become aware of and to be able to control one's thoughts and feelings. It is very difficult to concentrate on this process as long as we are full of stress. Learning about oneself requires calmness, attentiveness and a dialogue based on trust. If we take time to increase our awareness of ourselves, it becomes easier to break habitual, stressful behaviour. Prayer can help us to find calmness and insight and can guide us towards our inner work. Once we have a better knowledge of our needs and our strengths and weaknesses, it is easier for us to make the decisions that will help us to find our right place and balance in life.


Imbalance between work and rest

The demands for efficiency at work, partly as a result of global competition, have caused many organisations to be so pared down that many employees are living with a constant feeling of inadequacy. We can even go so far as to call it "organisational anorexia". The combination of enormous pressure of work and very little control over how the work is to be carried out, as well as constant interruptions as a result of being permanently available by telephone and email, mean that many people's stress system is activated for the entire working day. The time available for being sociable, which from a stress-reducing point of view is so valuable, has often been rationalised. A team of Swedish researchers has shown that in the 1950's we laughed for 18 minutes a day, whereas now 50 years later we laugh for only 6 minutes a day. As well as nourishing good relations, a good laugh sends a cascade of energy and light throughout the whole organism. Making time for socialising and humour is therefore one of the best ways of creating a good environment at work and in one's life.

All our vital processes are based on an alternation between work and rest. This is one of the reasons why in the autumn period of our life we feel as if we have experienced enough and we long for so-called eternal rest. On the other hand a tiny new-born baby that has just returned from its spiritual holiday is full of curiosity and drive to seize physical reality. A really good night's sleep, which for many people nowadays is disturbed by stress and anxiety, should in the same way cause us to wake up with the drive to get on with the day's tasks and in the evening to look forward to being regenerated through the inactivity of sleep. When we sleep we set off on a spiritual journey during which we charge the batteries that store our vital energy and at the same time repair our nervous system and brain after the wear and tear of the day. Good sleep is of enormous importance for our physical and mental health and for our joy in being alive. There is therefore every reason to take good care of it. 

Our physical body has, as well as a stress hormone system that releases primarily the energy of gravity, also a calmness-and-rest system represented by a release of the energy of feeling. This system takes over in animals as soon as the danger has passed. We human beings on the other hand continue to think about the physical and mental threats even though they are no longer present. So the stress system continues to work and thereby blocks the production of the beneficial, healing hormones of the calmness-and-rest system. A highly ambitious person who wants to do a good piece of work in a workplace in which the workload is unreasonably high will have a tendency to continue to think about unresolved tasks also after work. The person will perhaps also be disturbed by worrying thoughts during the night and will as a result sleep only superficially. The repair and regeneration that the brain, the nerves and the rest of the body need, and which are helped by the calmness-and-rest system and not least by deep sleep, cannot be set in motion. Such a state of affairs drains the person's energy and good spirits with the result that unnatural fatigue begins to take over to a serious extent.


Our energy depends on the quality of our thoughts

We have probably all noticed that happy thoughts energise us and that melancholy thoughts make us sad and tired. The energy that flows through our blood and nervous system depends on the quality of our thoughts. When we are stressed and tired our thoughts tend to be more negative. This easily becomes a vicious circle if we do not consciously bring it to a halt. People who are off work suffering from depression as a result of burn-out often speak about a process in which over a long period of time they have been overloaded with tasks, both at work and in their free time. And at the same time they have often cut down on physical activity and exercise. When, in addition to this great strain, conflicts and frustration begin to arise at work or in their private life the symptoms of stress begin in all seriousness to make themselves known. The feelings of irritation, disappointment and the sense of being a victim then become more insistent and difficult to let go of.

From a cosmic perspective, the harmful effects of stress increase as we become more humane. In just the same way as with physical food we are forced to refrain from eating animal products because they are too difficult for our refined organism to digest, on our evolutionary path we also have to abandon step by step the energies of conflict and stress in favour of a more humane, reconciliatory and peaceful mental state. The increase in the energy of gravity flowing through us when we are in a stressed state causes far too great a strain and wear and tear on our nervous system. If this process continues long enough the person ends up being so devoid of energy that they have only one thought: "I just have to rest and get away from everything." Sometimes the desperation and feeling of powerlessness is so strong that they experience suicide as being the only way out.


Fatigue and the turning point that points the way

What traps many of us in too high a level of stress is the fact that we get used to it. The stress has become automatic and therefore unconscious. We are unaware of how fast we are going. We have become so accustomed to stress that we experience it as a normal state. For this reason many of us who are used to being stressed become irritated when someone asks us to slow down and take it easy. Those around us see us as "speedy" and always on the go. They have got used to hearing us say: "Wait a minute, I just have to finish this and then…" We often also feel a little bit proud of our ability to get things done, juggling many balls in the air at the same time. Once we have become used to such a high speed we feel uncomfortable when everything is quiet and calm around us. Many people are surprised when they crack up – "How could it possibly happen to me?" Those around them, however, often show no signs of surprise. Many people think: "If I could just have a week off, I would be back on track again." Later, when in peace and quiet – and with professional guidance – they have the time to look through the stress and strain of the recent years, they find it easier to understand the causes and the effects.
 Most people who are burnt out end up in an existential crisis. What is the meaning of this treadmill that I am chasing round in? I have had absolutely no time for my children, my friends or my hobbies. Recently I have been cut off from my feelings; in fact they seem to have been totally dead. Where is the quality in my life? What is the meaning of my life?


We must become satiated with the dance around the golden calf

Present-day stress and the tendency to be stuck in negative thoughts are the natural consequences of a materialistic world picture. If we have only one life and if death is the absolute end of it, we are then nothing more than our body and our achievements. Our worth as a human being is something that we can measure. We compare our achievements, our salary our status and we compete for a place in the sun. The dread of not being good enough or of ending up as an outsider is always present. Money is seen to be the primary means of fulfilling one's wishes. If we ask people whether they think money can make them happy, the majority would say no. However, if we look into our present-day life style it is organised as a "dance around the golden calf". So much of our everyday lives is tied to thinking about money; we want to earn as much as possible and pay as little as possible for food, electricity, telephone etc. Thoughts about our economy can quite easily possess us, thereby excluding all thoughts of higher things. Many people's inner turmoil, anxiety and depression are caused by an unsatisfied existential hunger, a longing for meaning or for spiritual nourishment. The wave of unnatural fatigue and burn-out is causing more and more people to wake up and realise the value of giving attention to the interactions with their fellow beings and giving a higher priority to the things in everyday life that give life meaning.


The help offered by spiritual science is of crucial importance

The materialistic world picture is a belief system that makes us the victims of, among other things, what we have inherited from our parents and the environment in which we have grown up. We are therefore stimulated to think of ourselves as victims and, as we have seen, such thoughts drain us of energy and the courage to embrace life. Research into stress has shown that feelings of powerlessness combined with stress are the factors that most eat away at our energy and health.

Spiritual science demonstrates how we as eternal spiritual travellers are constantly growing as a result of our experiences. Once we experience that we can no longer bear to live in the readiness for the fight that stress activates in our animal-like body, we become very much more aware that we must change our way of thinking and our life style. Our sense of wellbeing depends to a greater and greater extent on our learning to create calm and peaceful thoughts. Once we realise that the stress we are experiencing is something we have created ourselves, we are on the way to winning back the power over our lives. It is we who have to transform the way we relate to the world around us. When we see that the intensified circumstances that we are living in are a mirror image of what is inside us, our life situation becomes a meaningful challenge. It is we who have to create the inner calm that we need in order to be able to use the more highly developed sides of our consciousness. Sooner or later we will have run out of energy and will have burnt ourselves out in the treadmill of time and in the negative thoughts that it helps to stimulate. Only then will the motivation to gain a deeper sense of the meaning of life begin to grow.

The crucial factor in the creation of a peaceful and healthy life is the insight that life is not a race to the winning post. Time is not in short supply; there is always more. The teaching we gain in the physical world helps us to develop and to gain control of our consciousness. And here prayer is a tool that plays an important role. When it is our highest aim to learn to reconcile ourselves with the fact that our existence is that form of education that is most able at this moment to develop our soul to become more human, and when we allow love and respect for everything living to be at the top of the agenda – instead of career and outer success – there will then grow inside us that peace of mind that will enable us to concentrate on the most radiant thought in life: How can I create a harmonious and loving relationship to my neighbour and thereby to the Godhead?

 

Original Swedish title: Onaturlig trötthet – stress och utmattningsdepression

Translated by Andrew Brown, 2010