I have been wanting to write about stress for a long time, but I haven’t yet hit upon the angle I’m looking for. It’s very stressful. So while I’m looking for the proper approach, here are a few observations about stress that will help us all to be more calm. I hope. I dunno; I’m really worried about it.
- Stress Really Is a Killer. I don’t need to cite a bunch of medical evidence here, because you all know it from personal experience. Stress sucks. It saps the joy out of life. The physical effects — fatigue, elevated heart rate, headache, sweating, and on and on — are familiar. Just not a healthy way to live.
- People Who Think They’re Helping Are Often Worse Than the Stress Itself. “You think you got it bad?” a so-called friend will say. “Imagine being ____, who is _______ and also has to deal with ______ all the _______.” Ignore such buttinskis. They may be absolutely correct (a stressor in itself), but they miss a crucial point. Perspective does nothing to lessen the local stress. The fact that someone, somewhere has it worse than you (almost always the case) does not remove a twig from the bundle of sticks you’re hauling around.
- Little Doesn’t Mean Little Effect. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that because the series of stresses you encounter are singly small that you aren’t suffering from too much stress. They all add up, and usually multiply, which is not fruitful. By the end of a day full of such button-pushing, you can be as keyed up as someone who had all their stress in one big, whopping episode.
- Some Stress is Good. A little pressure to keep your promises is not such a bad thing. The problem is when it becomes overwhelming, in which case you have either 1) taken on too much, or 2) run into a swamp of bad fortune.
- It’s Inescapable. The Buddhists include among their Four Noble Truths the simple maxim, “Suffering is.” It exists. It will find you. Running around trying to avoid stress generally just creates more. Better, if you can, to manage your reaction to it. Let’s face it, failure to keep most plates in the air will ordinarily result in no more than a broken plate. They’re all replaceable.
- If You Don’t Have Some Stress, You’re Doing It Wrong. Imagine zero stress, if you can. Not worrying about a single thing? Far-fetched. Besides, the people I know who have a lot of stress tend to be the ones who take responsibility and mean to do their part. The ones who avoid stress are often the self-obsessed slackers who cause stress for others.
- Therefore… Take it easy on yourself. As Max Ehrmann said in the Desiderata, “beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.” Rest. Breathe. Enjoy. You deserve it.
So, how are you after all that? I feel a little better. Now I can think ahead to when…uh-oh. More blog posts due.♦
© 2013 Adam Barr