Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Stress.

I woke up feeling stressed today. Just something that has been niggling me for a long time, and it grew strong enough to actually wake me up. We talk about stress all the time, in this modern world. We say things like “Stress is a killer”, or “I feel stressed out”. Lots of things can magnify feelings of stress. Job interviews, job losses, examinations, moving house, getting divorced, or even being stuck in traffic.

Stress means different things to different people. One person’s stress is another’s challenge. Many thrive on the adrenaline of stress, whilst others have their lives destroyed by it. But how much of it is natural, and how much learned? Are we born with the capacity to feel stress, or is it thrust upon us by the experiences of others? Was it designed into our very being to help us deal with the basics of life, or has it grown since the age when we started to question satisfaction, and our place in the scheme of things?

I have no doubt that stress can make you feel ill, physically as well as mentally. Stress-free days are so rare that they feel special, like a holiday, or childhood treat. In western society, we seem to have been taught what we should feel stressed about. It’s as easy as telling a child not to worry about something that they weren’t worried about to begin with. “Don’t worry about the exam, it will be fine”. So you worry. “Don’t worry about the new school, you will fit in”. So you worry. “Don’t worry about your first day at work even if it feels strange”. So you worry, and it feels strange.

Often in life, we choose to place ourselves in stressful situations. For most of my life, I worked in jobs that could be extremely stressful. Not just because of what I encountered, but also because they carried an above-average sense of responsibility, and accountability too. Added to that stress was more of the same, found in my private life. Failed marriages, trying to be kind and fair to everyone, hoping to set a good example. Instead of just getting on with it, I always felt stressed about it. From an early age, I was taught that stress makes you sharper, gets things done, and leaves you with a sense of achievement that then cancels out the stress. But that didn’t happen.

Was stress something to bear because of youth, puberty, and development issues? I had to be seen to be popular, have a girlfriend, a decent job, and live a worthwhile life. Once that was all behind me, surely stress would play little or no part in my life? But it did, and it still does.

I woke up this morning wondering if it will ever stop.

66 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

  1. In my case, a lot of the stress comes from pressures I put myself under, sometimes by being unrealistic in my expectations, and often because I feel I might be letting others down if I don’t do or finish something by such and such date, although I’m sure it hardly makes any difference to anybody. But we all keep trying… (Oh, and exercising, going for walks, and mindfulness do help…) Thanks, Pete…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps the battle is not with stress itself but in the learning to manage it for a quality of life. After all, we all experience some form of stress… although some more than others.
    I’m sorry, buddy… you had some stressful experiences that still affect you. It tends to support the old adage.. “walking a mile in one’s shoes” to fully comprehend a person’s battle with stresses .
    I personally think loneliness is the greatest stressor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Doug. I recently wrote about ’embracing solitude’, so am not too worried about loneliness. I battle frustrations in life, like everyone else, but find that process stressful. I never really know if past jobs affect me or not, as I tend to only concern myself about the here and now. But they probably started the stressful processes in my mind long ago, and now they have the time and the place to reappear.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  3. stress is a major factor in our health-as you stated. It is the root of all sorts of maladies. Most things I stressed over n youth never happened-but some big things caught me off guard. Jobs are such a culprit of stress-especially the kind you had. Money -ugh! another constant source of irritation, at least for me. Now that I am older, I care less than ever about a lot of the former concerns. may we both have less worry and more happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. No, ‘stress’ will never stop until you stop it by not reacting to stimuli in certain ways. Sometimes it just means that we are grumpy or frightened about things feeling obstructed or impeded or not at our speed, and the grumpiness or fear can be dropped or just observed. Sometimes the body and mind just object to certain things and they may have very good reasons to object to the threats posed by the world. *shrug* I guess we all deal with things differently, and at different times of our lives.

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  5. Stress though a very generic term in itself, is definitely a very individuate thing. I do not believe that life can ever be truly stress free but I do believe that we can reduce some of the stress that often results from learnt behaviours, dysfunctional coping mechanisms or unnecessary social expectations/demands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, TC. It is interesting that you mention social demands, as I have been refusing various invitations to social events for some time, now, thus reducing the stress of having to arrange travel, dog-sitting, and accommodation. Moving away from most of your friends and family, as I did, was bound to give rise to lots of issues, where social events were concerned.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I do believe it is very individual, Pete. Some people, like us, experience a lot of stress. We want to succeed, to help others, to be thought well of. Other people, just don’t care and are happy to live a very basic life so they don’t get nearly as stressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post Pete and lots of terrific comments as well. It’s hard to “turn off” and disengage from the world, because we have so many moving parts to take care of…and I guess that’s the problem: we have to take care of them…the alternative? No stress, no responsibility, and ultimately no control over the direction our life takes, and that’s a scary thought

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s it, John. Once we stop worrying about the things we need to deal with, then the fabric of our lives begins to unravel, and our fate lies in the hands of others who don’t care.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  8. Very thoughtful post. I think all of us do a will experience stress from time to time. That said, some of us are more predisposed to it genetically than others. Our very personality and value systems play a part in it. And then there are environmental factors too. I’m sure those long walks with Ollie help to alleviate it. I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pam. I guess that I am definitely predisposed to stress. I just returned from a very long walk with Ollie, trying to overcome the idea that I am returning to what stressed me out before. I need to stop overthinking things, but I haven’t found out a way of doing that so far.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Good afternoon, dear Pete,
    before I disappear in the garden some ideas about stress.
    When I look at myself I see I am the one producing my own stress. It’s an internal stress, a learned attitude. I tended to let my inner monologue making me worried about the future. It doesn’t help to attribute this to my upbringing, to our society or whatsoever. The reason for the stress is me. I am not disciplined enough to be in the NOW. Actually, it’s a kind of masochism. Freud’s idea was that in every person one can find the two poles he called Eros and Thanatos. Eros is for me to be in the Here and Now whereas Thanatos is the death instinct producing this inner stress. But I suppose we can overcome our inner tension, this unhealthy stress. For me, it was important to see how it was ruling my life. When I walked at the beach f.e. my mind was wandering into worries about a possible future. Every time I noticed this I activated my authoritarian side telling my destructive side to shut up. I forced myself to stop in these situations to see where I am, what I really see and how I feel. It’s easily written down but I struggled with this for years. I became aware that I cannot stop my inner monologue but I don’t need to identify with it. For me, that was only possible by not judging my behaviour. Anyway, that’s my way trying to escape to stress myself.
    Like fear stress always has to do with being in an imagined future. To understand this helped me a lot. But I can’t say that I don’t experience stress any longer. But it doesn’t bother me that much, I know it’s an illusion. I understand more and more that I am the master of my mind.
    Of course, I can live this now since I am retired. In my working life, I had to be ambitious what produced stress. It may sound crazy, I had to learn to be a pensioner and I can only try to be a kind of relaxed person now because I could handle the stress before.
    I suppose, there are times for stress and times for overcoming the stress.
    Anyway, these were just my highly subjective ideas about stress.
    Have a happy stressfree week
    Klausbernd and the rest of The Fab Four of Cley

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When I was a kid, I was a bona fide worry-wart (like my mother). And then, somewhere in my late teenage years, I couldn’t take it anymore. I developed a different attitude towards things. “What’s the worst thing that can happen? Can that actually happen? No? Then don’t worry about it! Maybe? Then deal with it!” My life has been potentially stressful from start to finish (e.g., being on the verge of losing my home), and there have been times when I’ve asked myself, “Shouldn’t I be worried about this?” But, apparently, I trained my mind very well. I either jump into action, or else look beyond whatever the current issue is, and see a prettier picture.

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  11. “Stress generally refers to two things: the psychological perception of pressure, on the one hand, and the body’s response to it, on the other, which involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory. “ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/stress
    Every once in a while I have to look up stress. I look it up to remind me of what the experts don’t usually tell us. Stress is a learned mental state from the pressures placed on us as children to fit into the adult world we now live in. So, in a sense, stress is ultimately foisted upon us by, well, us. After all we are now adults (as much as I like to try to deny it). The pressure to do something never ends. Unfortunately not even in retirement when we are not supposed to do but we still think so. So, take the day off from stress by remembering you are no longer supposed to do (anything) except what you want to do.
    Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Theo. I started out thinking like that, but then got presented with a huge list of things I was supposed to be doing. When I found I couldn’t or wouldn’t do them, the stress returned! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My ex-mum-in-law who is in her 90s, raised nine kids and had to work several jobs because her husband was on a farm labourer’s wage and needed his money for beer and bets, once told me ‘Back then, we didn’t have time for stress’. She may have had a point but on the other hand things are different now with different sets of pressures (some self-imposed). I’ve signed up for a day’s Qi Jong session in December which is supposed to relieve stress. I’ll let you know! 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Mary. My Mum used to say something similar, about her life in London during The Blitz.
      Much later, (she was 86) she told me that those memories had stressed her out for all of her life, and affected everything that happened to her after 1945.
      They had time for stress, but they were unable to talk about it. Society was very different.
      Good luck with your stress-relief day. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Originally stress was a good thing – flight or fight – when we were hunter-gatherers. Since we are rarely in those kind of situations now I suppose we have come to identify stress with situations where we have little or no control in the outcome. I have been in some pretty stressful situations – deaths, divorce, alcoholism, moving home, moving school – and I just did what felt best. I have never been a worrier. More of a “Que será, será” sort of person, I just try to identify risk and form strategies, though there are some things that you cannot do anything about and worrying about them is futile. My best friend was a worrier, she worried about everything and it didn’t do her any good. I hope whatever is causing you stress can be eradicated soon whether by you coming up with a solution, or if it is out of your hands then accepting you can’t do anything about it. As they say at AA meetings:

    “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. What an insightfully written, beautifully expressed article Pete. Maybe stress is also another part of ‘the examined life’ too. So many elements to stress – what life throws up at us, how we react, how we instigate events and situations… and you must have experienced more than your fair share on the job. You do have to take the notion of “sailing into one’s golden years” with a wry smile. As time marches onwards, I find that as well as the inevitable present current stressful events, experiences of life’s past situations, bad decisions and downright wrong choices can become magnified in upping the stress levels.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Life these days is so frantic. Nobody seems to have time or understanding for others. I think stress and Mental Health problems will increase even more in the near future because many people are under so much pressure now. Past generations had stress and Mental Health problems too, but people back then didn’t talk about things like that, they buried the problem away, which only made things worse because they couldn’t get help.

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  16. I don’t think it will ever stop. I’m at a pretty stressful moment in my life as well. Most of the stress is coming from an uncertain future, especially next year. It can really make you feel bad to be honest, but for the most part I try to not let it rule me. There are days when it can’t be helped, and you are just overcome by it. For the most part though I try to focus on the things that I like to do: watch a movie/anime/tv-series. Read a book, do some blogging, or play a boardgame. Doesn’t mean that the stress will disappear like that, but it does help with it 😊 Hope you will have a great sunday nonetheless Pete, enjoy it! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, on rough days, that happens to me too. I can find my mind wondering of not really able to focus on what I’m reading.
        Movies/tv shows usually work best for me on days like that. Understandable though that you wan’t to leave that behind. Hope you will be able to at some point Pete😊

        Liked by 1 person

  17. The vast majority of worries never happen, and yet we do get stressed out over them. I’ve learned to switch off to most issues realising what will be, will be. I’ve only ever asked for help once, through my GP, and the answer was drugs. I’d rather get out and walk – it helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear you are able to switch off. I walk 2-3 hours a day with my dog, every day. Sometimes it helps, but on other days it can just amplify my thoughts about whatever I am feeling stressed about. I usually think about homeless people, or the severely disabled, then I can rationalise how small my own problems are.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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