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Do not Normalize Stress: Say Goodbye to Stress with 10 Simple Reminders.
Do you get up every morning not wanting to face what actually lies ahead?
Feeling tired and exhausted and irritated? Chances are, you are more stressed out than you care to admit.
First, let us identify if it is “stress.”
Or you simply feeling overwhelmed by certain emotions or situations.
Stress for me is an out-and-out negative word, but being overwhelmed is not. I have a problem with the way this word “stress” has become a part of our daily life and how we tend to accept it as a part of human existence.
On the other hand, being overwhelmed by a situation, a song, a friend’s remark, workplace matter, or being simply tired—by absolutely anything is alright. It’s okay to cry and feel.
I am not talking about a particular untoward incident or situation that happens with us. In that case, stress is good—we are in survival mode, all our systems—physiological and neurological—are prepared to kick ass, the mind is alert, and we are as ready as we can be.
Now, ask yourself—if this is your daily life, how long you expect yourself to last in this mode? How long will your body and mind support this survival mode?
We have generalized the term “stress” so much that it has lost its meaning somewhere along the way. We often hear:
“Life is stressful these days.”
“‘Oh! You are not alone, everyone is stressed.”
I ask, why?
What is making it stressful? Life is supposed to be fun and joyful and full of wonder and excitement.
Who is responsible for this daily stress?
The daily hustle and bustle of urban life is stressful—deadlines to meet, kids to take care of, homeschooling (thanks to pandemic), bills to pay, and, of course, the eternal struggle to maintain our own individuality in this chaos.
The irony of our so-called developed societies is that more the development, more the stress.
The relationship between our outward development is directly proportional to our inward stress. And then we are told to accept it as a part of our life, learn to deal with it, be ahead of it.
We have reached that stage in our developmental history as humans where everyone wants more of it. Even when we know the adverse effects, we still want it.
Life today is based on unrealistic expectations.
The whole education system is based on unrealistic expectations. Since childhood we are told to be successful and be inspired and be great—no one tells us that it’s okay to fail, to be not inspired, and to be average. We are told to try again and again till we succeed; no one tells us it’s okay to give up. After years of training and brainwashing, suddenly, when we grow up and enter the “real world,” stress accompanies us? How is it okay? Why should it be okay?
Is escaping the answer?
Yes, we are often told to choose the life we want. But, tell me honestly, how many of us actually have that freedom? We are bound by our responsibilities, relationships, and our own unrealistic expectations of life.
However tempting it may be to leave everything and move to some beautiful mountain town to live a peaceful life away from the chaos of modern society and ensuing stress, it’s not possible. For two reasons:
>> It’s not practically possible all the time.
>> Who is to say we will not be stressed by the highs and lows of life in our alternate setting. After all, it is life!
In evolutionary terms, we are probably living the most comfortable life, but our inner world is in utter turmoil. It is essential to strike a balance in every sense of the word—how much “development” do we want? How much is it affecting our mental health? How much is it affecting our environment? What is the price we are paying for it? Each one of us will have to answer these questions.
Productivity Battles and Social Media.
At a time when everything is measured in economic payout, and implications are only about the materialistic world, productivity wars rage on social media—even in this pandemic.
One of the major reasons for stress that I’ve come across is the pressure of being productive—in the economic sense or something that can be showcased on social media. In this aspect, I am totally unproductive as I love to live a simple life of small moments, cooking simple meals, enjoying rain and flowers. I can sit and gaze at my garden for ages and still not be bored. Am I being productive? I am not earning anything—so probably not. If you ask me, I am at my best productive self—happy, joyful, and content.
The problem is: simple things—kindness in our hearts, smile in our eyes, colors of the rainbow—do not make a good story. We have to add a dash of sadness, like a pinch of salt in the cake batter to bring out the sweetness, and dark clouds! Well, it might work for a story but do not fall into this trap. It is not essential for life.
The dilemma is where to draw the line between emotionalism and victim mentality. It is, not to say, we should not strive for excellence or growth in all that we pursue.
I, Me, Myself syndrome.
We’re conditioned to believe that the universe revolves around us. The truth is that we are just a small part of something much bigger than our individual existence. The mere thought of this humbles me and makes me surrender to the unknown. It is important to realize that our individuality battles are nothing more than the projections of our ego and conscious mind.
Change your perception.
In spite of all the modern amenities and success, if we are still stressed in our daily lives, there might be something fundamentally wrong with the way we are dealing with life. Our perception and understanding may need changing. We need to find a fine balance that brings some sanity back into our lives. We will have to become more mindful of our thoughts and actions, especially while dealing with the younger generation. Show them the truth of life—introduce them to the high and low tides of life early on, and try not to paint the idea of a perfect world for them.
In the post-pandemic world, creating a “mindful normal” will be the key to our success.
Some Steps to say Goodbye to Stress once and for all:
1. Be aware of productivity battles. Define what productivity means for you and ensure it is not something monetized. You are entitled to be yourself; decide what is bread and what is butter for you, and how you are going to make that distinction. Take your time to fine-tune your needs, wants, and haves (they are all distinct).
2. Social media and the internet. These are two separate things. While the internet has probably been the single biggest lifesaver in this pandemic—connecting families, friends, making work possible for so many of us, enabling us to put food on the table—the same cannot be said about social media. Social media fuels a false world of perfection, war of words, and fragile egos. If we are able to understand this distinction, we will be able to reap the best of both worlds.
3. It’s O.K. to be average. Being happy or having stress-free life has nothing to do with being great or excellent. Unlike what is sold to us all our life, superheroes are overrated. It is more important to do, whatever you do, with good intentions. You do not have to be the best at everything.
4. Being boring, mundane is good. My daily boring routine is what keeps me grounded. Learn to make it about moments and not milestones.
5. Pause, Stop, Breathe. Let the whole world run like a circus; we do not have to follow it all the time. We can choose when to drop out of the race, instead sit quietly and watch the world with attention. I assure you—it’s pretty amusing.
6. Sense of humor. Never underestimate the power of a good laugh. One of the best things we can learn is to laugh at ourselves. You will be surprised how many of your problems will actually vanish into thin air.
7. Life is not a burden. There is no greatness in carrying all the burden of the world. Logically speaking, most of the time we cannot do anything about our own problems, let alone the troubles of our loved ones. It is good to empathize, but often our mind goes into overdrive thinking about all the worst scenarios, none of which will actually happen, except that we will stress ourselves with worry.
8. Multitasking is a monster. I cannot multitask, and it is extremely stressful for me. Many of my friends also agree with this. It is not as great a talent as it is sold to us, like many other toxic practices by society.
9. Acceptance and gratitude. These are the two most essential arrows to nail a stress-free life. Daily practice of these will help more than we care to admit. Do not try to normalize stress. Try to normalize acceptance and gratitude.
10. What’s the prize? We often believe that the “end” will be fruitful, something extraordinary will happen like a euphoric climax of a movie. What we forget is that the true prize is in the journey, in the attention that we pay to the various small and big moments during that journey. That perception is fruitful. What we learn along the way is the prize.
I remember an interesting conversation with my father—it happened more than 20 years ago. I was arguing with him—what is the point of being virtuous and moral when we see people using cunning means and succeeding all the time. He said, “You are looking at the end, and that too only in a superficial way. The real prize is the journey of being virtuous and living a mindful life. There is nothing to the end. Being mindful is the prize.” It took me almost 23 years to actually understand it and apply it in my daily life.
It is the one lesson that has helped me to find my way to a stress-free life in this chaos and still enjoy the journey. I hope you find yours too. Chronic stress has never helped anyone.
Here’s my secret weapon: before going to bed, forgive yourself, and after waking up, first thing, remind yourself how much you love “being you.”