The Stress Test

Over-thinking. It’s one of the most damaging and disrupting things we can do in our lives and yet almost everyone in modern culture does it. You can still find calm thinkers in outlying areas of the globe, but in 1st World civilization those people become extremely rare.

904 Relax and Succeed - You should sit in meditationThere are a variety of reasons for this but I’m sure anyone over a certain age can just feel them on day to day basis and even those younger are telling me they would also like things to slow down. As strange as it sounds, there used to more time.

I don’t remember anyone ever getting upset that you called them the next day instead of the day they called, or even for the first few years of email no one felt that the sender was demanding an answer in a very short period of time or otherwise many more messages would follow. That was what we liked about texts and emails. You could get back to them when it made sense. Now you have to get back to the person when it makes sense for their life, not yours. Get enough people doing that and there’s no time left for you.

You all know the assorted beeps and tweets and rings and chimes that run your life. Think about how much time you dedicate to self-monitoring. A bit here to set up for your jog, a bit there to load something into your calendar, more there to check a text that it turns out isn’t even important, calls you never wanted, more ads fewer stories, more worrying, more fear, more blame and all that adds up to the difference between a day then and a day now.

904 Relax and Succeed - It's not a racePeople aren’t crazy to think something’s wrong. We’re now letting the technology dictate our lives. We built a monster and now we’re upset that it pokes and prods us constantly. The work day no longer ends. I know countless people with 8am-4pm jobs who now will often get work emails and texts between 5pm and–thanks to time zones–even 5am. And all this work is piling up while you’re asleep.

All of this adds up to a new kind of day that quite simply includes way more work. So you’re not crazy to be more exhausted. The issue then becomes that we have to be just as aggressive about our calming down because we have to fit it into these shortened lives. The list is extensive and it manages to include everyone except those calm people I noted at the top.

Now we have apps that try to interrupt you for itty bitty slices of peace. We have sound-blocking headphones and software that blocks the web for predetermined lengths of time, there’s courses, therapy, pills, alcohol, weed, and even stress disability. These are all a means of coping with a world that is going faster than modern humans want it. We’ve started building our work lives like we’re all 20 years old with extremely limited responsibilities.

The issue is, too many of these things end up adding to the problem rather than subtracting from it. Why? Because all the tech answers still keep us plugged into the same virtual space that we already feel is stealing too much of our time.

904 Relax and Succeed - The time you enjoy wastingOne of the biggest issues with the drugs, alcohol and weed is that they all prompt the wrong kind of inactivity. Too often these turn into nothing more than depressing or stressful ruminations wherein the person sits entirely still and just thinks negatively about their life and eventually themselves. This goes to the point where the next day they have to add even more guilt about the stuff they didn’t get down while they were “relaxing.” If you’re not really enjoying it then it’s not really relaxing.

Look at your life. Feel that stress as a sign that something is wrong. Don’t drug yourself into a stupor. This is your life. And you have far more to offer than you realize. The world is being deprived of too many shining lights and we are sensing the darkness that results.

What the world really needs today is less of your stressful work and more of your joy. So do things that excite you, motivate you and enthuse you. That’s actually inportant. Because life is a very short and precious opportunity to create an even bigger world with more room and time, you just can’t let all of the bells and whistles take it all away.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.