Tao Stress Management

Rid your Shadow

shadow of stress

Knowing Tao helps us to perform stress management.

Stress is among the most serious silent killers in the modern world. Left unchecked, it could develop into serious mental and physical problems.

Before we go into how stress management with Tao, let's look at some of the major sources of stress.

There is a story in Chuang Tzu about a man trying to run away from his own shadow and footsteps.

The man is under duress of his own shadow and footsteps.

No matter where he goes, they follow suit. When he runs, they chase him up. He runs faster. They continue to tail him.

So he runs even faster, and eventually the wretched man dies of exhaustion.

The man may sound ludicrous, but his problem indicates a major source of stress for many of us. It is not uncommon for us trying to run away from our own shadows and footsteps. If we can come up with solutions for the man, the solutions could very well shed light on stress management.

Here, let’s look at a relaxation technique the man may take to overcome his stress.

Step 1: Accept the existence of stress.


The man should do what the Tao says as staying close to reality. Instead of running away from his own shadow and footsteps, he should face them squarely.

Similarly, the first step to stress management is to recognize stress.

We get stress from emotional imbalance, such as worries, anxiety and fear. It can be derived from work, relationships and others. While stress does not sound good, it is normal to have it. What's important is to keep it under control.

Step 2: Stress relief routine

Build stress relief into your daily routine.

The session does not need to be long. It can be just a few minutes. Of course, you may extend it into hours. The objective is to alleviate stress in you.

Using the analogy of the fable, this is to allow yourself some time to stand in the shade of a tree, so that you would not be bothered by your own shadow; or indulge in silence, so as not to be distressed by your own footsteps.

It cannot eliminate all stress, but it makes stress management far more effective. It is a temporary relief. But it is crucial, just like exhaust pipe to car. The brief getaway enables you to sort out your problems at hand.

Choose an activity of your liking for the session.

The activity must be able to shelter you from stress, and is handy enough to be practiced as a routine. Making it a routine is important. Accumulation of stress may result in it going out of control.

It could be a walk in the garden; a quiet reading at a corner; or sports like jogging or swimming. It could also be Tao sports like tai chi, qigong, Tao yoga and meditation.

Step 3: Long-term solutions

Some degree of stress is harmless. It motivates us to perform better, and it can be a good thing. It becomes unhealthy only if it is left unchecked. If you continually derive stress from a particular problem, you must seek a long-term solution, or your health would be at stake.

If the stress is derived from a relationship, consider talking openly to the person involved. If it is from your work, find out where the bottleneck is and tweak the work system.

The stress could very well derive from our own desires.

If this is the case, learn the Tao of knowing enough.

Not knowing enough is a constant source of stress for many of us. We are always faced with two problems. What we have, we don't treasure. So we don’t have enough. What we don't have, we wish for them. So, again, we don’t have enough.

The net result is anxiety, dashing hopes and stress.

In this case, the long-term solution is to eliminate desires.

Just like what Lao Tzu says:

“Fame or life, which is dearer?
Life or wealth, which brings you more?
Gain or destruction, which is more harmful?

Thus he who is fervid exhausts more,
He who hoards up loses the abundance.
Knowing to be contented fears no shame,
Knowing when to stop fears no danger,
This is how one prevails.” (44)


Step 4: Letting go

Learn to let go!

Once you have done the necessary or what you can, let go! Do not worry! Read more about letting go, click here.

As Lao Tzu says,

“True command of all things can be gained
by letting things go their course.
Whey you interfere,
You lose the command of all things.” (48)

Click here to read about Tao health tips in addition to stress management.

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