Life is stressful. Anyone attempting to balance work, parenting, relationships, vacations, knows this to be true.
Stress is Status
Life in general requires so much of our attention, and the pressure to do everything at the highest caliber that we can is causing most is us to feel overwhelmed at the very least. However, it also seems that stress has also become a kind of status-quo of sorts. Not only are we stressed, but we brag about our anxieties as if they are a necessary part of being busy and important people. It’s as if not having stressful stories to tell makes us boring people to be around, or at least we subconsciously believe that.
We have somehow established that the level of stress that we have in our lives is equal to the amount of value our lives have. I don’t think that we realize how much we talk about our late hours at work and our bombardment of family obligations with the purpose of making sure that our audience knows that what we are doing with our lives is very significant. Is that what it is? That we feel the need to shove more stress into the cracks of our lives so that they seem complete to anyone who might want to examine them? Are we stressed because we are working really hard toward success and achievement, or do we think that we have achieved success because we are always stressed?
I recently got back from a girls’ trip to Paris. My girlfriends and I were having a conversation about this topic while we were sitting at a Parisian café. When you are seated at a café in Paris, your waiter or waitress greets you, gets your order, brings your food or drink, and then leaves you alone for a very long while. Sitting for hours before someone would approach us again was startling at first, and maybe a touch uncomfortable for our hurried American lifestyles. It was like someone was giving us permission to not be anywhere else for hours. We were on vacation, so we actually didn’t have anywhere else to be, but even the local Parisians did their coffee and their meals with this same lack of urgency for time. They sat for hours enjoying one another’s company instead of thinking about the next place that they needed to rush off to. We might have been making a lot of assumptions about the way Parisians treat their time, but the point still made us all think about how we are in a constant state of moving while we are in our normal routines.
I encourage you to begin to be more mindful about where your thoughts are travelling while you are doing certain activities. Are you letting yourself relax into dinner with your family, or are you thinking about the chores that you need to complete before bed? Are you soaking in the sunshine and the breeze while sipping your coffee at a coffee shop, or are you worrying about whether you will have enough time to grocery shop and make dinner? In your conversations with your friends and your loved ones, are you talking more about stressful things, or about the things that make you happy?
I don’t think that you should never talk about your true anxieties, but I do think that we inflate some stresses in order to make them worth bringing up in a conversation. Ask yourself if what you are about to say is really something that you need to get off your chest, or if you only want it to make you seem busy.
There are so many times that we look back on amazing adventures or spontaneous day-trips and wish that we could go back to those moments. Perhaps if we are more diligent about recognizing the special instances in even the most ordinary activities throughout our day, we will create countless more memorable moments over the course of our lives. We all have a million things to get done, but hurrying our way through life could be keeping us from enjoying it to its fullest!