What is a Jewish take on managing stress?

created at: 2014-02-03

One of the great sayings in Judaism is that the whole Torah was given to make peace in the world. The Torah itself is not going to be the entity that can bring this peace to the world; we, “the people,” can bring this peace through the Torah and its teachings and guidance. Any chance of achieving a peaceful world means that we need to be at peace and healthy with ourselves and with one another.

All of us experience stress and anxiety at various points in our lives, and there are countless—and timeless—ways to respond to this feature of human experience. The Torah’s eternal message and teachings certainly apply to every generation, even today. The Torah tells us we must “serve God with joy.”

An easy example might be Friday night Shabbat dinner. Recognizing Shabbat by clearing our schedules and being with friends and family, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the work week, taking a pause from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, eating a nice meal, singing songs and taking the time to be grateful for our blessings is a way to center ourselves, relieve stress and synthesize our body and soul. The potential for being in harmony with our body and soul is always there, though some situations are easier to identify and act upon than others.

Another way to realize this harmony is to think about—and meditate on—the fact that an infinite God chose a finite human being to be partner with Him/Her in this world in order to make it a better place. This can give us a real sense of purpose and mission in our daily lives.

Any mitzvah we do is a fusion of infinite and finite. The more we educate ourselves on this, the more we can identify that opportunity, appreciate it and taste it. We were chosen to perfect this world by revealing God’s glory, which is the English translation of the popular slogan, “Tikkun olam bemalchut shakay.” When we can start to appreciate how we are all needed to complete the puzzle, our feelings of stress can begin to fall away.

created at: 2014-02-03

Rabbi Mayshe Schwartz is the rabbi at The Chabad Chai Center of Brookline.

The varied community work of the Chabad Chai Center includes a Friendship Circle that provides services and support for Jewish children and teens with special needs through the help of trained teen volunteers and professional therapists.

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Boston offers many resources that support individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, mental illness and disabilities.

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