• Zach

Stress: Choose Your Own Adventure

In our previous post about stress we emphasized the importance of knowing ourselves before we can improve our surroundings. And while this is true, we eventually need to move toward understanding others and this can be difficult. We’re living in a time and space that is mostly fueled by what we’re expected to do, either this or that. Comparisons are odious, but still we tend to engage further in the other persons’ dilemma. That is, we either can’t help but please them, even if it means our suffering; or we despise them because of their beliefs and practices are not in line with ours.

We’re all familiar with it, the toxic relationship. These people who make us feel bad about our performance or our weekly sales reports or our overall existence, serve no purpose. Especially the pundits, politicians and social media pluggers, if we acknowledge that everything is connected and we can accurately identify our stress sources, why then must we put ourselves through this nonsense? Survival? The idea of connectivity has been mutated into a series of personal bargains and compromises.

For one minute, let us think about what we love about our life Now let us think about what we would want to change about it. If even one area is addressed: “I think I need to exercise more” or “I need to eat less” or “my relationship is dragging me down”; then we just might have room for growth. A true effort, then, is what’s required and identifying our toxins, as aforementioned, will get us on our way- but it is only just the first step of what is often a long and sometimes arduous journey. Letting go can be very difficult, but just as we view proper nutrition: it doesn’t end with what you decide to take out of your diet (or your life), but rather continues with each good item you add to your plate.

Still, life hits us from all angles and it is how we respond that is imperative to our purpose on this earth. For instance, you get a flat tire, your oven malfunctions and your dog gets sick (possibly auto-biographical) all over the carpet, all within a few hours: this is how things tend to unfold and the more we face these hiccups, the more equipped we become in handling them; or the tighter we get. We then wreck the car, kick the oven and…well, we clean up the dog’s mess and love them unconditionally (non-auto-biographical, except for the last one…and maybe the second one).

The harder we care for and lament over these pockets of negative energy, the less we’re able to do anything about them. The trick is to minimize the amount of bullshit we have to deal with in the first place. The less BS, the more success, as we say. Here, growth is possible, but when confronted with adversity we often compound stress by blaming ourselves or other people for our misfortunes, i.e.- “crummy car! cheap kitchen appliance! stupid..but adorable dog!”; or the dreaded “I’m an idiot undeserving of these things”, when we should be recognizing that no one thing or situation is of permanence. The world continues to spin.

As a species, we have adapted poorly in this regard, but that is because we’re plugged into the wrong collective outlet, while our personal systems are in dire need of an overhaul. We’re making far too many excuses for things to continue “being the way they are”, for ourselves and for one another. The point is that we should all learn from our mistakes and make an honest effort to resolve them and move forward. The problem is, life is not an isolated quarrel with a co-worker; for many of us, life is the quarrel.

Denial and tradition impede our growth and they often work in conjunction. Just as we may compare ourselves to our neighbors and friends, we similarly measure our personal levels of success against, hate saying it, the American Dream (what your parents and their parents were chasing after). If we’re having a difficult time understanding why certain things aren’t “working for us”, let’s try dispelling this idea, then try being radical or simply try being ourselves, because we are no longer living in traditional times (no matter how hard certain people try and push for this). Let us not deny who we are, first and foremost, and this is not in reference to our respective vocational roles as a contractor or teacher or barista; let us be what gives us actual purpose and makes us happy, complete.

At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be chasing anything, for this is assuredly a fast-track through a benumbed and fleeting existence; rather we should be exploring, analyzing, pontificating and finding out about our world and our place in it. Jessica and I often wondered if the parents who dropped their children off at our school were that frantic all day long, or if it was just the process of unloading their daily loaf of burden that seemed to have them drenched in a state of calamity. We may have even snickered at the idea of them all skipping off to meet up together at some hookah circle or tea party. If only, for the former assumption, in reality, is likely the correct one.

This can be confirmed by many observed tendencies, particularly the attitudes and practices regarding fast food and Walmart. If you watch these subjects at said places, you’ll notice in all of them a propensity to rush. “You can get anything there!” says the Wally-world enthusiast speeding on their way. Is that what you’re looking for, just anything? In the Mac-drive-thru, you’ll notice 10 cars lined up and operated by folks just dying to get their hands on the most deadly meal that human-kind could dream up for them, as quickly as possible. These shopping and eating practices alone are gushing with stress.

This brings us back to all of the reasons we make unhealthy choices and why/how these choices are effecting us. The primary reason everyone is lined up at McDonald’s is not because their food is delicious (let’s be honest, it’s shit); it’s because it’s fast, it’s easy and most significantly everyone is doing it. This sounds alarmingly like cigarettes once upon a time and is a fast recipe for a social disaster that’s been brewing for decades. If these are the very reasons we’re eating what we’re eating, stress, along with stomach and colon cancer, as well as heart disease and countless other health problems, are both imminent and indefinite. Baby steps are necessary, as nothing happens overnight…but we need to eventually and permanently drop out of the club, pull our car out of the funeral line and go make ourself a sandwich (we recommend a Veggie Bahn Mi or the Jack-Fruit Salad…they’re really good! See our Food posts).

For those who have reached a healthy state of conviction in their diet, whatever that may be, that’s a big step in the opposite direction of stress and kudos to you. But there is always work to be done, for the information today is flowing at an incalculable rate, the sources of which are mostly equal to the quality of intentions that the two previously mentioned monsters, ehem, I mean entities uphold. Do not fear a life of purpose and inquisition, for that is the pillar of our individual existence. That is our freedom.

We should recognize that only us, as individuals, posses the power to who and what influence us as human beings; factory farming, racial injustice, gun control and climate change, to name a few, do just that. Consider with whom we surround ourselves and consider the places we visit, the stuff we do and the stuff we consume; and what impact this holds on our future. Further consider what purpose they’re serving in our personal lives. We all make compromises to fulfill the system in which we’ve found ourselves, but rarely do we detach in order to discover our bliss. Get less of this stuff that’s piling up everywhere and get out of town so we can connect with our families and connect with ourselves, naturally and correctly.

If we can set aside Big Macs and plastic replacements for our emotions, if we can skim away the surface-level sludge from the bogs of our intellect, then we can begin finding our own path. The Minimalists’ philosophy is to live more with less and that is the takeaway here. Detachment is not always a negative concept, particularly when it pertains to our well-being. Give a damn about things that matter, release the unnecessary, screw the oven and love that dog, so that we can build ourselves a quality existence together. Also, breathe.

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