By: Roy Thomsitt
Modern stress is habitual, and is something that the vast majority of Americans and Britons succumb to in their material driven lives. Whether mildly or overwhelmingly, stress will cast its powers across most of us at some stage in our lives, often increasingly as we get sucked into a pattern of working and living that gradually strips us of our individuality.
Stress reduction has therefore become a “necessary” antidote industry. We may console ourselves by saying that our lives are fast paced; that this is what modern living is all about and we must pursue it frenetically; that people in those poor countries which have not adopted the Anglo-American way are just backward and will catch on eventually. But that is not just a consolation; it is both an illusion and a denial, and helps stress reduction in no way at all.
It is an illusion first of all that the average consumer has a fast paced life. A commuter may sit in a train twice a day, to and from their place of work; that train may move at a fast pace, but the commuter does not. They just sit there, their minds going over the same themes as always; last night’s tv, tonight’s tv, wishing they could have had another hour’s sleep or wishing they were already home and tucked up for the night’s slumber, or the day’s boredom at work behind them or before them. Drowned in tedium and repetition, the vacuum left in their daily lives is gradually filled with stress, as if it had a supporting role in their existence.
A tiring and repetitious daily routine can be a breeding ground for discontent and unhappiness, the real reasons for modern stress. If that routine is full of creativity, and control over one’s own actions, then it may not be a source of stress at all, or discontent. If, however, the individual is suppressed, then it can be a very different story. Most people are employees, whose lives are dictated by those above them and with no or little scope to think and do for themselves. They are particularly vulnerable to modern stress.
Caught up in the modern way of life, it is very easy to lose connection with yourself as an individual, for your individuality can be suppressed from all sides. I am sure I am not alone in having experienced that. I had lived the zombie like existence for over 20 years, and despite the fact that I had some very stimulating jobs, I had, almost unknowingly, lost track of life as it should be. Then in 1995, I packed it all in and started my own business, and started the long haul to win back my individuality. But it was 1998 before I started to fully appreciate again what having control over your own life really meant. The 20 plus years were a blur; where had I been all that time?
One of the problems with modern stress is that it becomes a focus, along side the focus on purely material things such as the “need” to have a new car, a new house, the best clothes, the best TV and so on. Modern stress is a consumer product in itself, part of the material razzmatazz, that keeps the consumer in his or her place: a consumer, not a doer or a thinker; someone who plays by the rules and spends and borrows and spends and borrows to relieve themselves of the tedium and chase the shadow of achievement. Not real achievement; just its shadow.
That is not to say, though, that there is no relief from stress in the Anglo-American world. Those who are able to escape back to the real world now and again, and who can exercise sufficient self control regularly enough, will find that stress relatively easy to keep under control.
So how do we get to this other world, where we can manage our stress? There are portals all around you. Anything that will take your mind away from the self focus is a portal into this other world. Spending time with your children, and seeing life through their eyes for a while every day; the joy of discovery and play; but not as a drain upon your resources, and not as a part of your tedium. Spending time appreciating the wonders around you, the joys of nature, the little miracles that are within a short distance of where you stand or sit. Spending time traveling, helping others, seeing the true misery of people who are under the real stress caused by extreme poverty and disease, not the packaged consumer stress that we tend to think of.
This “other world” is a world of perspective. It is a world you used to know, but have somehow lost through lack of time. Yet, there was never any lack of time; that was an illusion too. This “other world” is also a world where you make the choices, consciously, not have them dictated to you by employers or weariness. A few simple choices each day can distract you enough to bring some relief to consumer induced stress. Fill the vacuum with your choices, and stress will not find such an easy way in.
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