For those of you who don’t know me, I have a lot of stress in my life. It’s not that my environment is particularly stressful, or that I have a lot of real stress. A lot of my stress is self-induced, because I, like many people in my family, worry constantly about the future. We plan for every situation, every outcome, little things that are really, in the end, unimportant. Regardless, this worrying can cause a lot of stress over time, and of course we all know that stress is bad for our health. I had an old dentist tell me once to cut the stress out of my life, I had a doctor tell me that, my driving instructor, teachers, family members. “Cut out the stressssssss” (I dragged out the ‘s’ because I wanted that to sound nasally and annoying).
Cut out the stress. What the f**k does that mean?! How exactly does one simply go from stressed to not stressed? Is there a switch somewhere? A form to fill out, perhaps? Or should I just stop paying the bill, and they’ll cut me off? The phrase “cut out the stress”, or any variation of that is absolute garbage. Maybe saying something with words like “begin to reduce” or “slowly bring down” would be more effective, but sentences that demand an sudden stoppage of all stress in your life are some of the least helpful things in the world. Their ineffectiveness is only amplified when the person telling you to cut out the stress gives you no concrete advice on how to do just that.
The key word above is “concrete.” Some people may tell you to do yoga, or some other new-age, trendy practice from Dr. Oz. A simple Google search, however, will bring up half a billion results. I’d like to go through one of these advice websites now, with all of you. Just a disclaimer: I did not single out this website for any reason other than the fact that it came to the top of the Google Search listings. I do not intend to defame the author or the content of the website, and am merely going to critique it with artistic licence. I’ll list the tip in bold, and then my thoughts below that. (The link will be at the bottom.)
This website intends to offer me seven tips on how to de-stress instantly. I can do instantly.
- Go for a quick walk.
Here I am, at the office. I’m managing several files, working with clients, trying to think of what I’m going to make for dinner tomorrow, I’m also worried about the economy, my finances, my wife/kids/other family member, I have a weird pain in my chest, am I having a heart attack? STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING, WE’RE GOING TO WALK NOW.I can see where this would be helpful if you actually lived in a world where you have an opportunity to get up and stop whatever you’re doing and go for a little walk. The only people that I can think of who would live in this kind of world are retired people, and what could they possibly have to be worried about? If I was retired, the minute I got stressed, I’d just leap up and start racing around. Probably confuse the hell out of everybody.
- Read some fiction.
Please see above for a quick explanation about why this is unfeasible in the modern world. Furthermore, allow me to simulate what a scenario would look like if someone took their break at work to read a fictional book.”Ah, finally I can sit down and read this adventure story. Hmm, maybe I should grab some coffee first. Oh did my phone just vibrate? There goes my desk phone. Wow, this coffee isn’t very good, but at least now I can sit down. Oh, that sounds like my email, I should see if that client got back to me. Ahhhh, now I really need to pee. Oh my break is over.”
And yes, someone could conceivably “unplug”, but if someone has that down already, then what exactly do they have to stress about?
- Meditate or pray.This is probably the most reasonable one so far. The only two things I can think of are: what if you’re not religious? and, what exactly do you meditate to? Can you say, without a doubt, that at this exact moment you could stop and just start meditating? If you can, good work.
- Watch a funny video.This is also quite reasonable, aside from the fact that many workplaces (the centre of most of life’s stress) block sites like YouTube or Vimeo from their employees. If you’re at home, or can somehow manage to find a way to watch YouTube at work, then looks like you’ve got this one in the bag, congratulations.
- Make a herbal tea.This also has logistical issues, given that not everybody has access to a source of hot water when they’re stressed. If you’re at the office, that access can be temperamental. At home, it’s much easier to do, but one would actually have to buy herbal tea (which can be so pricey!), and then take the time to make it, and then actually sit there and drink it. I say it like that because most herbal teas taste like the juice that collects at the bottom of your garbage bin.
- Punch a pillow.Really? Are you kidding me? Okay. I don’t know about your work, but at mine, we don’t have a pillow dispenser in the staff room. And even then, if I punched a pillow and any one of my coworkers came in, I would be the subject of office gossip for weeks. This is not a viable workplace tip. At home, if you can a) not upset your wife/partner by punching one of the nice pillows, then excellent. Also b), if you have a young child, who, coincidentally, walked into the room at the same time that you were punching a pillow, try explaining that to him or her.
- Take slow, deep breaths.
This is probably the only one I would actually recommend. This can be a very soothing practice, if you have the patience and mental capacity to focus on taking slow, deep breaths. Just keep doing this.
So if any of these can actually help your stress, let me know. The breathing doesn’t do very much for me in the long run, and the rest of this is practically guff. This website is where I got these tips from, and when I looked at the other Google listings, other tips fell into the same general vein. If you’re as stressed as I am about unimportant things, let me know! Or just punch a pillow, whatever.