Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
Have you ever tried to have a nice, long, serious conversation on the phone but your toddler is in the room…or your dog? Or have you ever been miserably sick—say, with the flu or a killer headache—and you just want your small children to quiet down and give you a little peace? If so, you have a perfect example of what stress does. The more you wish it would go away, the louder it becomes.
This time of year we’re bombarded with advice about how to deal with stress, but we don’t have time to read it. If the problem were only temporary, we could tough it out. But stress can act like pills and alcohol combined; each problem interacts with all the other issues you’ve already swallowed until you have a lethal concoction. You start forgetting what you’re doing and stop sleeping well. Your blood pressure climbs and your arteries clog. You may develop acid indigestion or suffer nosebleeds. You know what stress feels like for you. You don’t need the list. You feel like you’re going to short-circuit in a massive explosion—complete with flashing sparks and burning nerve fibers. But you just keep on keeping on—smelling the stench of your spirit smoldering to ash.
The articles that advise you to take a vacation stress me out. According to a recent report cited in MSN.com, Americans are giving up vacations. No wonder we’re fascinated with robots; we’re becoming robots ourselves. Companies and institutions use the economy as an excuse to empty us of our last bits of humanity to squeeze out one more ounce of profit from our flesh than they collected last year. They demand we do more and more with less and less—fewer benefits, no bonuses, no fun. Work isn’t supposed to be satisfying; it just has to fill every minute of every work day and then some and then some more. At a job I held not long ago, the bosses scheduled a full day of dreary evaluation meetings on the last day before Christmas holiday, and it became an annual event. We could hear the ghost of an unrepentant Scrooge celebrating and shaking his chains, but we obeyed because we had sold our souls for money and security.
I read an article a couple of weeks ago that said children in Finland learn much better in school because they have lots of little breaks between subjects. In general, American companies and institutions don’t believe in the idea of breaks. If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re cheating. The quality of the work isn’t nearly as important as whether or not you’re busy every miserable minute. You’re being monitored. We somehow watched the nasty Morlocks living beneath the ground in The Time Machine and took them as role models. We smack our lips when we see Danes dancing in competitions between towns or Cook Islanders taking naps and think that we could eat them for breakfast.
People who don’t have to worry about how to pay for their basic needs tell the rest of us the cure is to eat vegetables, exercise, and meditate. They don’t seem to mind that our infant mortality is too high and our life expectancies are dropping. But what can we really do to improve the situation? We need to connect with other people, rebel and insert a little time to laugh or sing or dance into our contracts. Companies that take care of their employees get both better employees and better production. We need to create responsible families or families from strangers if our biological families don’t function. Virtual fun isn’t the same as real fun in a real place with real people you enjoy. We need to act like we believe that we work to live and not the opposite, that schools are there to help children become their best potential and not to test them into submission, and that our politicians are paid to serve us—to make life more pleasant for the entire society and not merely their friends. Maybe if we invented a holiday that wasn’t for sale we could lower the stress of the country and decrease the number of people who act out in ugly ways. Just a thought.