This is not another boring, superficial post about how to treat stress by some unreal methods that never work. Stress is very often caused by our inability to cope with the inflow of tasks. These tasks are defined by us, and what we think we are responsible for. So in the end it comes down to our responsibilities, or better yet said, what we perceive our responsibilities to be.
What is the limit to “responsibility”? In other words, how “responsible” should a person be in order to be a person of “good” character?
In today’s chaotic world, it feels that somehow, we are inevitably asked to be “responsible” beyond our capabilities. I for one, feel that I am expected to be responsible for more than I can bare, and therefore I feel that I have failed myself almost every day. It is mind-numbingly obscene how the feeling of failing every day can wreck your life in the long term. You feel torn apart, depressed, anxious, and hopeless.
Our lives are filled with “musts” and “have to’s”! I must finish my work assignment! I must prepare food for tonight! I have to pick up the kids! I have to go to my physio! I have to run and catch the next train! I have to workout! I have to go on a diet! I have to buy groceries! I must take my car for service! I have to buy present for my niece’s birthday! I have to clean the house! I have to dye my white hair! I have to shave! I have to call the plumber! I have to buy my vitamins! I have to talk to my boss! I have to, I must, I can’t, I failed, …..
I sometimes sit at night and think to myself; “is this what God had planned for me? for us as humanity? to live like robots? to drop off our kids to kindergarten from the age of one, and cry all the way to the train to have to be so far away from my baby to be able to pay the loan on the costly apartment in the city? to have an endless list of things to do at work, and deal with that annoying colleague who always comes up with some way to make a huge mistake that is impossible to fix! Surely there is more to life than this vicious cycle! Surely we must live a more purposeful life! Surely we are not mice in mazes!”
Where is the limit to our responsibilities? What is expected of a human being these days? We are certainly not modest when it comes to being responsible! You may wonder what does modesty have anything to do with responsibility? The word “modesty” comes from the Latin word modestus which means “keeping within measure”, and we have gone beyond measures when it comes to defining our responsibilities. The word modesty in Arabic is “تواضع”. This word translated back to English, it also means “to be humble”. The antonym of humble is arrogant. Isn’t it arrogant to think that we can do more than what we are capable of?
They talk about depression, stress relief, anxiety, and other symptoms we face in this modern life! However, the focus is not on the cause of those symptoms. AKA: Handling Responsibility. I seldom find information that is actually helpful to treat my anxiety, my shallow breathing, my tummy pain due to stress! I find it hilarious that the first thing that comes up when you Google “stress relief” is a bunch of pill advertisements, then some links about “breathing deeply”, “being in the moment”, “meditation”, “lessening your workload”, or “taking one step at a time”. Altogether, a whole lot of bullocks that doesn’t help a sole! If I could breathe deeply, I wouldn’t be here Googling stress relief! Would I?
What I am trying to say is that just like all aspects of life, we have to be modest when it comes to our responsibilities. We have to be humble about the realm of our abilities! Make a list, go through it, make it realistic and manageable, and feel good about the parts that we cannot manage to do. Say “NO” to more tasks! Say “NO” because if you don’t, your daughter will not get to spend quality time with you this weekend! Say “NO” because a day comprises of 24 hours only! Say “NO” because you simply can’t! Say “NO” because your heart will stop pumping blood, and you will die of cardiac arrest due to stress! Say “NO” because if you don’t you may have missed the last time you could have met your grandmother! Say “NO” because you are only human!
So my remedy after much contemplation on the topic of stress is the following:
- Understand the limitation of time, and internalise it!
- Be realistic about your capabilities. How many hours do you need to rest? How much can you work in a day? How much quality time do you need to spend with your loved ones?
- Make a list of your responsibilities
- Prioritise the list
- Start timing those top priorities until they reach your capable hours
- Humbly say NO to those list items that you cannot cover
- Don’t feel guilty. You are human! Not a machine!
I know that this is not as simple as it sounds. I still struggle with stress, but I feel by understanding the cause of my stress, and having a more solid plan, I am a step ahead of where I used to be. I think one of our biggest weakness lays under the inability to make realistic expectations of ourselves, and to be humble enough to say “NO”! The magic word! NO!