Last updated January, 2016.
It's time for another installment of "Question and Answer Tuesdays!"
"I work in a very stressful environment, and I have a challenging situation in my family life that causes a lot of frustration and anxiety. I feel that my stress (and frustration/anxiety) isn't 'everyday' stress, it's constant because of my job and family. As such, I don't know that meditation would really help me. I think I need to remove myself from these environments first, otherwise it will just keep coming. What is your advice in matters like this?"
We tend to blame things like "stress," "frustration," and "anxiety" on external circumstances:
> friends and enemies;
> family and upbringing;
> politicians and the government;
> the life we were born into.
If you investigate, though, you will find that you can change those external circumstances and - while you may get temporary relief - the stress, frustration, and anxiety eventually return. What does that tell you?
It should tell you that external circumstances aren't responsible for these feelings/emotions, they merely trigger them.
The external circumstances we blame (we will call them "situations") cause thoughts that you attach to, identify with, and get swept away by. That leads to the feelings and emotions you describe. You can never escape these situations - they are life, and they cause the "highs and lows" that permeate our existence.
Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down, sometimes you are happy, sometimes you are sad. It's a roller coaster that you will always ride unless you learn to deal with the root cause.
Dealing with the root cause is exactly what meditating does. When you develop a consistent practice, you learn to observe the process described above: a situation, thoughts about that situation, feelings/emotions, actions/reactions (we cover the last topic in this post).
When you observe the process, you can interrupt it. By interrupting it, you break the habit of conditioned behavior (you're no longer swept away by the mental noise).
So, to answer your question, my advice is that you need to meditate!
You also need to realize that you are not unique. You think that your own stress, frustration, and anxiety is different than everyone else's. But, it's not.
And, you think that if you change your external circumstances, you can find happiness, peace, and contentment. But, you can't.
That logic will keep you on the roller coaster for the rest of your life - up and down, happy and sad.
Meditation is the way off that ride (free guide here).
One more thought (pun intended): Another way to re-frame the above discussion is to use the analogy of "treating the symptoms, not the disease." External circumstances are the symptoms, your compulsive mind and non-stop mental noise is the disease. You can treat the symptoms (i.e., change your external circumstances), and you may find temporary relief. But, it will not cure the disease. Meditation treats the disease, and is the cure you are seeking.
Address the root cause of your suffering.
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