Your feelings of stress are absolutely understandable – we live in a very stressful society that places great demands and expectations on people. On the one hand, this breeds achievement; on the other hand, this pressure to produce, if not channeled properly, leads to tension, depression and burn-out.
“Its paths are pleasantness, and all its ways are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). The way of Judaism, the way of the Torah, is meant to be pleasant. I will try to share a few Jewish thoughts and their sources that show the wisdom of the Torah in reducing stress and making our lives more pleasant.
Don’t take on too much
The Talmud Sages taught: “Tafasta meruba, lo tafasta ” which literally means, “If you take hold of too much you hold nothing”. In our terminology this translates into, “Don’t take on too much”. You have to be realistic about your abilities and only take on what you can carry out. Don’t let others’ demands on you (or demands on yourself) cause you to spread yourself so thin that you crack; otherwise you’ll be left with nothing.
Share the burden
King Solomon, in his great wisdom, wrote, “Tovim hashnayim min ha’echad” which means, “Two are better than one”. This includes the idea that, whenever possible, delegate responsibilities to others. You don’t always have to take everything upon yourself, and you should feel comfortable in sharing joint burdens with others. Often, over-achievers, who are natural leaders, fall prey to the notion that the more they do, the more their leadership will be recognized; but the ability to delegate responsibility and rally others behind a cause exhibits no less leadership.
Everything is from God
Last but not least is the teaching, “Hakol bidei Shamaim” which means everything is in the hands of Heaven. You have to do as much as you can within reason to accomplish your goals. But ultimately, the degree of success depends on what result God wants. He’s the boss. The acceptance of this idea greatly defuses stress because while you certainly have to try your best, ultimately the outcome is not up to you and you (and others) have to accept the result as God’s Will. This is echoed in the teaching of our spiritual leader and ruler King David, “hashlech al Hashem yehavcha v’Hu yikalkelecha” – “place your burden on God and He will support you”.