There is stress and there is STRESS. There are moments of stress, and then there are long-term panic sessions that lodge in the gut, causing sleeplessness and an underlying sense of dread. Managing this latter type of stress has been one of my biggest struggles. Many small business owners and other driven people share my predicament.
As a young man I shrugged off stress with ease. My whole motto was simple. “Relax, we’re all going to die in the end so we might as well enjoy life now.” I don’t think I was too far off the mark, but as the years have progressed and I’ve taken on more responsibilities, especially taking on the responsibilities of raising livestock, my old motto was cast to the wayside and I began to morph into that bulgey-eyed Mr. Stressball-type of dude that I used to pity.
I’m not always Mr. Stressball, and I’m not always Mr. Laidback. Behind the masks we wear through our daily lives we are just who we are, doing what we need to do. We each have a different path to follow, but the important thing to note is that our paths cross constantly. Being human is being a social creature. When we retreat into our own minds we are losing our humanity.
Having perspective is when we understand that even though every situation in our lives seems slightly beyond our control, we are okay. Everything is out of our control to a large degree. By grasping onto some idea of control and denying ourselves happiness until that control has been achieved, we create our own stress. Why do we do that to ourselves?
Because we want to believe that the tension we are creating inside of ourselves somehow gives us more value. The idea that we are out of control makes us lose our sense of value. If having complete control over our lives is our central value, then we will always be fighting and we will always be stressed out.
If we’ve lost something like a friend, a family, or a home, we feel sadness and fear that we will lose these things again. In many ways, the fear takes hold of our lives and is worse then the loss.
I know that my breaths are limited and one day I will no longer be here to even consider these questions No matter what happens in my personal story, I am blessed to live in a wealthy country. I don’t have to worry about war destroying my life, or lack of potable water, edible food, or violence on my street. I can make choices about what I am going to do every day and what I am going to eat and drink. I can sleep in a safe warm bed. I can see my family and friends when I want to.
When I have fears about the future, when I have doubts about my path, when I regret the past, I know that these are all privileges.
And I know we are all in this together. We are all passing through the natural cycle of birth, life, and death. Fear is like a cloud that blocks the sun. Behind that veil the sun is a beating heart that fuels all life. If we can let the clouds pass, we can find the source of all beauty, the energy that created the cosmos.
Daily I remind myself that this life all I have. It isn’t a competition – history shows us that all winners eventually lose to the grim reaper. The real work of our lives lies in developing our compassion for each other.
I believe that if we wake up in morning and remember that we will die at some point in the near future, we can stay focused on following our dreams and make the world a better place.