Stress relief has become a multifaceted, multi-billion-dollar industry. Armies of experts have emerged, dispensing advice of every sort. Some say the key is better time management—reduce stress by doing a better job of juggling everything we need to do. Others say the key is patience—be ambitious, but focus on less daunting short- and mid-range goals. Others tell us to reexamine our priorities from the quality-of-life angle and major on the things that count most. Still others take a more spiritual approach: Relieve stress through yoga, meditation, or other disciplines. Who are we to believe?
What amazed me the first time I saw an oil refinery up close was the intricate maze of pipes. Besides the complexity of it, one wonders how it can all be maintained safely and still be financially viable.
Proper pressure must be kept in every pipe to ensure that the oil flows at just the right rate—not too fast lest it burst the pipes, and not too slow. The designers were clearly ingenious, and it takes an army of experts to maintain and monitor it all.
Most of us are pretty busy people. We usually have more to think about and tend to than we can actually fit into our day. We all want to stay on top of our lives, but for me at least, keeping my priorities straight regarding the many things that I want and need to do can sometimes be a challenge, and my days are usually filled with more than I can fit into them.
I’ve always been an accomplishment-oriented person. I prided myself in knowing what to do, having my to-do list all prioritized, with the most important tasks highlighted, circled, or written in large print. I’d zip around town, stopping here and there, knocking off the “minors” while on my way to accomplish another “major.”
Have you ever had one of those days where it seemed like the world was against you, and where it looked like everything that could go wrong, went wrong? It was February 29, a day that only comes every four years. Looking at a list of things that had fallen on my schedule for that day, it seemed as though the day had been scheming for the past four years to ensure that it would fit four days’ worth of tasks into 24 hours!
I have a six-year-old nephew who loves video games. The other day I was sitting with him while he was playing a racing game on his Wii. The levels were getting progressively more difficult, the speed was faster, and the courses were more hazardous. I could see him becoming more and more stressed—his face was turning red, his hands were getting sweaty, and he couldn’t stay in his seat.
There’s so much that you need to do each day, so much that you want to do, and so much that others expect of you. You feel pulled in all directions. Pressure. Tension. Anxiety. Will it ever stop?
The books on the shelf have similar titles: Slowing Down Modern Life, The Rush Culture, Putting a Price on Speed … Most everyone agrees that contemporary life is lived in the fast lane, and we’re battling the consequences in the form of stress and other maladies. It might seem as though life was much simpler a hundred years ago, but even changes taking place back then were a cause for concern for people at the time, as illustrated in the following extracts: