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Buddhist Study

Managing Stress and Thriving

Olga Strelnikova / Getty Images.

This series highlights how Buddhism can enhance daily living. As Nichiren Daishonin says: “When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs.”[1]

Would you like a bit more stress today? Probably not. But it turns out not all stress is bad. Stress can help us manage our daily tasks and get things done.

But everyday stressors—like a heavy workload, family issues, a long commute or financial burdens—can sometimes cause even the calmest person’s blood pressure to spike. 

Simply put, stress is tension caused by stimuli, from simple things, like changes in temperature or sudden noises, to more complex situations, like work and relationship problems, losing a loved one, natural disasters and so on. 

Stress dates back to our primordial past, powering the “fight or flight” mechanism that helped our ancestors escape danger. When faced with a life-threatening situation, like being attacked by a predator, the brain sends a signal to release adrenaline into the bloodstream, providing extra energy to fend off the attack or flee. In this state, functions not essential to self-preservation temporarily shut down. 

This mechanism still comes into play when we suddenly need to swerve our car to avoid an accident or come face-to-face with a scary spider. But when our stress response is activated by non-threatening triggers, like a work deadline or unpaid bills, it can harm our physical and mental well-being. We might get a headache or stomachache, feel fatigued, have trouble sleeping or feel irritable. Persistent “fight or flight” conditions can lead to heart problems, weight gain or loss, skin problems, depression or more.[2]

Managing Stress, Developing a Healthy Lifestyle

While the heaviness or anxiety caused by stress can seem overwhelming, it’s by doing small things each day that we can counter and manage it. 

For instance, just improving our posture can change our mood,[3] and taking short breaks throughout the day can significantly improve our health.[4]

While many of us know that changes in our daily routine can help us relieve stress, here are a few tips that might be helpful:[5]

Take care of your body

• Eat healthy, taking in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and other healthy foods while limiting intake of salt, sugar, unhealthy fats and alcohol.
• Get enough sleep to repair and relax our bodies and reverse the effects of stress.
• Move more and sit less. Every bit helps; 20 to 30 minutes of daily physical activity, like walking, is ideal.

Connect with others

• Talking with others can boost our mood, and confiding in people we trust is helpful.
• Make time for cultural, spiritual or religious activities to rejuvenate our spirit.
• Volunteer to support a good cause. Giving to others also benefits us. 

We Can Thrive by Facing the Challenges of Daily Life

In addition to establishing healthy habits, by engaging in our Buddhist practice we develop resilience. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo increases our vitality and enables us to tap the wisdom to deal calmly with whatever troubles us. Ikeda Sensei asserts: 

When we strengthen our life force through the Mystic Law, all earthly desires and suffering are instantly transformed into enlightenment. Problems are transformed into wisdom, into happiness. 

The same is true of stress. Stress forces us to pay attention to our health. Stress too, serves as an impetus for growth, for developing our life condition.[6]

• • •

The question is whether we use stress as the wind beneath our wings to soar high into the sky or whether we allow ourselves to be blown away by it. We each have the capacity to decide that by our own mind or inner resolve.[7]

So, whenever we find ourselves stressed by something or someone, we know we have a choice. We can either sit still and give in to that pressure or rise to action. 

What kind of actions can we take? 

An excellent first step is to chant to the Gohonzon to raise our life state. And as we chant, we will find the best way to tackle the issues we must face. 

As mentioned, another effective way to overcome stress is to reach out and support others. As Nichiren Daishonin writes, “If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way.”[8] Helping someone who is struggling not only reduces our suffering, it can double our joy.

Each courageous step becomes the “wind beneath our wings” that we need to take flight toward our goals and dreams. In so doing, we ensure that we not only meet the challenges of daily life but thrive from them.

 —Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

February 2, 2024, World Tribune, p. 11


  1. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,
    vol. 1, p. 376. ↩︎
  2. <accessed on Jan. 24, 2024>. ↩︎
  3. <accessed on Jan. 24, 2024>. ↩︎
  4. <accessed on Jan. 24, 2024>. ↩︎
  5. <accessed on
    Jan. 24, 2024> ↩︎
  6. Humanism and the Art of Medicine, p. 64. ↩︎
  7. Ibid., p. 56. ↩︎
  8. “On the Three Virtues of Food,” WND-2, 1060. ↩︎

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