Does hard work create stress? Absolutely not. That is the biggest misconception possible. Hard work can never stress us. We could work from morning to night and still be relaxed. So then what is the cause of stress?
The answer is, “Our attachment to outcomes”.
When we are attached, we start thinking – “It should be like this; it should not be like this. I want this; I don’t want that.” The moment we become attached to outcomes, we become stressed.
Children come to me, “Swamiji, my exams are coming up; I am very stressed out and nervous. What should I do?” The fact is that studying will never stress you out, nor will it make you nervous. The nervousness is a result of your attachment to the outcome. If the same child had a dummy test and the result did not matter, the nervousness would vanish. So what stresses us out is not our application or our dedication, but our attachment to the outcome.
This is exactly what Shri Krishna told in the Bhagavad Gita, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.”
Shri Krishna taught us the eternal science of work 5,000 years ago. Those principles of the Bhagavad Gita are relevant even today.
Stressful situations will always come. It would be foolish to expect the world to be free from stress. Our everyday challenges are a part of the grand design of things. God has built these into the system to challenge us so that we rise. Swami Vivekananda put it very nicely. He said, “Life is the continuous unfoldment of a being, under circumstances tending to press it downwards.” In other words, life is so created that you will get difficulties and challenges.
The challenges in life will keep coming, but if you wish to remain calm and peaceful, the process is very simple. You should just focus on putting in your best efforts. And leave the results to God. This is karma yoga.