“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius.
Perhaps the best cure to all of our deepest worries in life isn’t in the chapters of the latest self help book, but in the caves of our ancestors.
Wouldn’t life be a whole lot less stressful if we just ran barefoot through the fields and chatted around campfires? Yet instead, we are too busy stuffing the piggy banks for the retirement fund, juggling a baby on our arm, paying off the mortgage, being a good friend/partner/spouse, trying to keep fit, trying to have a hobby, trying to relax…..(my personal fave is being stressed about trying to find time to relax) the list is endless because we live in a world we ourselves have made complex.
Think about it, a major reason for why we become stressed about our jobs is because of money. Many of us do Jobs we have no interest in so that we can pay our bills and feed our families. It’s interesting how money is created from ‘thin air’ but it’s worth is defined in the mind.
Imagine if we gave no value/importance to money anymore, how would the world look then? We would return to our bartering days – ‘I’ll give you this whale tooth for some wheat”, yes of course this still does occur in everyday life on small and large scales but the global economy as a whole does not solely operate in the trade of physical product for psychical product in everyday transactions. You don’t go into your local supermarket and hand over your baby in exchange for a gourmet meal (well……). So we’ve placed a conceptual importance on money. Which nowadays isn’t commonly a physical item in many developed countries, it’s digital, invisible, which adds to this idea of placing so much importance on something which arguably doesn’t really exist.
And because we do this we handcuff ourselves into a system which self-perpetuates our own stress with regards to finances. Where am I going with this, before I waffle on… ah yes, financial stress is one type of stress which we as humans have placed upon ourselves! Let’s all burn our money and run off into the trees holding hands and eating ears of corn……but really though, it is food for thought.
Anyhow back to my point – in our everyday lives we do place stress upon ourselves, which may not all be necessary. Of course there are some stresses which are necessary and some external factors and elements of our lives which are out of our control but if you think for a moment about your own life, perhaps you may think of some elements of your life which could become less stressful if you changed your perspective, attitude, environment….?
In fact regarding environment – According to the research, as many as one in five people who live in a city admit to being constantly stressed, compared to just ten per cent of those who live in the countryside.
Alongside geographical location, could societal differences in attitudes towards potential stress-causing factors be a direct link to stress levels? For example, take the education system. ‘If you don’t do well in your exams, you won’t get a good job.’ I remember hearing my careers teacher at school bark at me, but what if it’s not just your teacher who says that to you, but your parents, your peers, your community……. take South Korea, ‘Korea has one of the best education systems in the developed world, but student suicide rates remain high ‘-Aljazeera. One has to ask why this is, from teacher-student hierarchy and a lack of natural resources putting a reliance on their citizens’ knowledge to grow their economy to tiger moms planting the seed of competitiveness into the minds of their children. South Korea as a society has arguably placed inconceivable pressure on its citizens. So I suppose in this instance, none of us had a choice of where we were born and so what one person may deem as normal stress another may deem it as unnecessary stress. My point here is that global society and the society we live in on a smaller sale – country to country plays a direct role on what factors we deem are stressful and to what extent.
*Disclaimer – I’m not saying we should avoid stress, it’s unavoidable due to the nature of life, but I’m questioning whether we could reduce stress in our lives which may be ‘unnecessary’, caused because perhaps we are being too hard on ourselves, we haven’t looked at things a different way…. these kinds of ideas.
Are there any examples of what be may ‘unnecessary stress’?
While stress is a natural part of being human, many common stressors are not worth our physical and mental energy. Ofc ourse what one person deems stressful another may not, so there is a subjective nature to what is ‘stressful’ but in saying this, I’m sure some of the listed below are commonly agreed upon as being somewhat unnecessary causes of stress.
Replaying stressful situations in your mind -Replaying a stressful situation in your mind over and over again doesn’t do you any good and could actually cause you to relive the stress you’ve already experienced. We’ve all done it, fought someone in the supermarket because they’ve expected us to be the next Olympic hurdler obviously thanks to their trolley barricading the whole aisle. We get home, unpack the groceries and start thinking ‘I should’ve said this….’you think I’m an Olympic…..’ A mild example, but you get the idea, more serious events can find themselves as unwelcomed guests in our minds for days, weeks, months having a detrimental impact on our own well-being. Sometimes it can’t be helped, true, but where we can, in the more trivial examples of the supermarket incident, perhaps it’s best to laugh at it and try our best to move on, as reflection may only lead to unnecessary stress upon ourselves.
‘What if’ thinking – ‘What if I’m not good enough’, ‘what if I make a mistake’, ‘what if they don’t like me’? All catchphrases of the 21st century human. Why can’t it be ‘what if I succeed’, ‘what if I learn’, ‘what if they really like me’? Is it because we don’t want to feel disappointed? So we lower our expectations, stop ourselves before we even try. And that’s the crux of it all, we never try, so we never can give ourselves the chance to succeed. Worst-case scenario thinking leads to nowhere. Having even a pinch of positive thinking can be a catalyst for many successfully developments in one’s life. This should be emphasised more.
Procrastination – One of the biggest reasons why people give up on their goals isn’t because the goal is unattainable but it is because they’ve made the steps taken to reach the goal unrealistic. If you tell yourself you need to climb a mountain in a day and you’ve never even climbed a step before then do you think you’ll be sitting sipping piña coladas at its peak by sunrise or craning your neck looking up at the goal you failed at? The point is, when we don’t make our expectations/steps needed to reach the goal realistic, we get overwhelmed, and when something(s) feel like mammoth tasks then our human brain says ‘this isn’t comfortable let’s do something comfortable’ and that thing tends to be munching on a bag of crisps while watching TV. And then what happens later? We lie in our beds with chronic indigestion and feel guilty and stressed about not attempting to achieve our goals. But what really is the case is that we are being unfair on ourselves, setting smaller more manageable steps to reach the bigger end goals will make the tasks easier to achieve and so help us procrastinate less and therefore not feel as guilty and stressed.
Social Media Sharing – Comparing ourselves to others causes stress, the saying of simply ‘don’t compare yourselves to others’ is like saying ‘don’t blink your eyes’, it’s impossible. We’re programmed to make judgements about our environments, and those in it. Are they trustworthy, are they a threat etc? So I don’t think it’s possible to not compare yourself to others to some degree but perhaps what can change is our opinions of ourselves over time. If you think better of yourself, work on your self-esteem your less likely to think worse of others or yourself.
How do we tackle ‘unnecessary’ stress?
Find a balance – Time management in itself is a skill but one thing to keep in mind is working ‘longer’ does not mean working ‘more efficiently’. Making time to relax and not feeling guilty about doing this is key to reducing stress and may actually benefit your productivity in the long-run as you’re not at risk of burning out as often.
Be kind to yourself – I made a post not so long ago about fun and easy ways to treat yourself, maybe some of these ideas could help you? Many times we are running after other people, being people pleasers that we can forget about looking after ourselves, which over time can impact our mood and general well-being. And furthermore, why would you not want to be kind to yourself?
Journal your emotions – Set aside time to reflect on your day. Write down any thoughts or feelings you’re having. This can be a useful tool to help you better understand your stressors and how you react to stress. Furthermore, you could reflect on the good things that happened in your day no matter how small you thought they were. This can help shake off the storm cloud above your head at times.
Seek help from others – Whether that be a close friend or family member, or a professional, sometimes it’s best to have a chat with someone to let your worries off your chest and clear your mind. And sometimes to simply hear things from a different perspective helps. It’s easy at times to get wrapped up and clouded in our own thoughts, which may be bias or skewed and it takes someone on the outside looking in to help us see things clearly.
So these are just some ideas that may help you, for more advice these resources may be useful to you:
Overall, of course we can’t avoid stress completely in our lives, and on that same note, not all stress is bad, sometimes it can be the fuel that we need to meet deadlines, persist and ultimately succeed. However when stress is unnecessary it can have detrimental impacts on our well-being and so putting some effort in to reel in this type of stress may be a good thing to try once in a while. So let’s give it a go!