Kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai? Kya aapke zindagi mein stress hai? So if you can choose which toothpaste to brush with, why not choose which stress you endure! Weird idea? Allow me to elaborate.
What is choice? Philosophers have been tinkering with this idea for millennia.
Essentially, choice is something that helps us walk the path of life. We choose to eat a particular meal and avoid others; we choose the kinds of bond we nourish and which ones to let wither; We choose what benefits us, what furthers us to our goals, what we love to do, we choose life.
In life however we have to make difficult choices too. When we choose a career we are simultaneously choosing to NOT pursue other careers. Each situation offers a choice, and in choosing consciously, we move forward.
Therefore, for our own lives, the accountability lies with us, barring of course extraneous circumstances.
For example, let’s say that a mugger has a gun pointed at your head and asks for all your valuables. The solution is obvious right? Give them what they want and save our lives. But, if you think about it harder, you’ll realize that even in this impossible situation that seemingly has no choice but to hand over our valuables, we can choose to disarm the assailant, or hit them in the groin and run away.
These are unrealistic options, but options nonetheless. We CHOOSE to hand over our valuables and save our lives. Even in this traumatic situation we can make the choice that best compliments our capabilities.
When we say we had NO choice, we are unknowingly reinforcing the idea that we are helpless.
Similarly, at a workplace, if our boss hands us unrealistic deadlines and too much work, we can choose to find a solution. We can choose what stress is worth taking within the seemingly impossible circumstances that surround us.
We can choose our stress. We can decide which courses of action to pick up and which to drop as a result of which the kind of stress we experience also changes.
Stress in its right amount is integral for survival. It’s a state of mind and body that helps us combat difficult circumstances. Since stress is also a physical response, it leaves us exhausted.
This makes it all the more important to decide which battles are worth fighting.
Why is Choosing better difficult?
But as any of us who have been shopping before, choosing can be difficult! Team Edward or Team Jacob? More difficult than the choice Sophie was offered. What makes choosing difficult?
The Rock may have found solace in hustling, but that may not be the case for the rest of us pudgy mortals. We all have had a conversation along the lines of-
- Bro1: I slept for just 6 hours last night.
- Bro2: That’s nothing. I slept for just 4 hours last night.
- Batman: 4 hours? I was up all night fighting crime and bringing justice.
Okay, maybe not the EXACT same conversation. But this sort of competition around who works harder at the cost of their personal and social lives makes choosing less stressful options difficult.
When everybody around us is busy all the time and working round the clock, it adds an invisible pressure on us to conform and stick to the norm. For example, if everybody’s working overtime, even I should work overtime, making it difficult to choose healthier workplace practices.
Unhealthy Negative Emotions:
When at the workplace, we take up responsibilities and accountability, simply because of unhealthy negative emotions, choosing is again, a difficult endeavor. Emotions like Guilt, Shame, Envy and Jealousy are the main culprits.
Have you ever had this thought while relaxing- “how am I chilling while my work is still incomplete!” and then proceed to work, you are the victim of guilt.
If you take a holiday but can’t relax due to the thought that I should be working, even if the reason you took the holiday was extremely important, clap your hands.
Guilt steps in when we feel that we haven’t met or perceived that we haven’t met our personal or moral standards.
If you take up work because you’re worried that if you don’t, you’ll be humiliated in front of the entire team on Zoom (curses @ pandemic), then Shame has been at work on you.
Working extra because you’re worried if your work isn’t up to the mark, then you’ll be shamed.
Thoughts like these make choosing stress-free lives difficult. Shame is a social emotion and is the feeling of being publicly humiliated for a mistake (actual or perceived).
Working extra hard and long to get that big office at the risk of your physical and mental health is the hallmark of envy.
Coveting the materialistic belongings of others, and using it to fuel our “hustling” at the risk of a healthy life is slowly becoming the norm. Fight It!
Envy is desiring the materialistic belongings of others.
If you work overtime to bag a client so that they don’t leave you and become THAT colleague’s client, or you put in the extra hours to get that promotion that one of your undeserving colleagues got in the last quarter, then you are dark green with jealousy.
Jealousy is envy in the context of human relationships.
These unhealthy negative emotions are what drive us to choose more stress instead of our physical or mental health.
It is only human to be trapped and affected by these unhealthy negative emotions.
But, do they really help?
That’s why we call them unhealthy.
How to Choose better?
Taking responsibility for our actions is integral to emancipating us from these mortal wounds.
Once we realize that we are choosing this to avoid certain unhealthy negative emotions, and that indulging in such behavior doesn’t have any worthwhile benefits, choosing becomes easier!
Moving forward, we can choose the better route, take that holiday for the family trip, work at our own pace, and live more fulfilling lives. We can therefore choose which stress to not pick up.
Since we are a rich and vibrant species with different kinds of people, what stressor is unhealthy for whom also differs.
To understand which stressors to choose we have to know what stresses have what impact on us and to find out which stressors are healthy and which are unhealthy for us.
Looking at the current stressors in our lives objectively and assessing them can help clue us in. Questions like-
- Is this responsibility helpful to me?
- Is this responsibility something I don’t want to do?
- Can I undertake this responsibility without sacrificing my mental and physical health?
- Can I alter this responsibility to make it more acceptable to me?
Asking these questions is a great first step to assess and eventually accept or reject responsibilities. You can come up with more questions that you find helpful!
Research shows that stress management skill training significantly contributes in promoting the academic vitality and psychological well being of students.
Research on industrial workers also showed that effective stress intervention helped in preventing mental health and sleep problems.
Think of stress management as another tool in Batman’s Utility Belt. Definitely more helpful than the shark repellent!
It can be cultivated like any other skill, and like any other skill, it has a learning curve! Stress management helps us use stress to our advantage instead of wreaking havoc in all spheres of our life.
Even though the contemporary work and academic culture makes choosing and dealing with stress difficult, we can find it in us to cultivate the necessary claws to climb the proverbial tree of life!!
Therapy can help sharpen these claws and take the decisions you want to take, instead of the ones you feel pressured to take.
Juice peewanu, Carrom khelwanu, stress manage karwanu, majjani life!
If you or somebody you know struggles due to one or more of the attitudes/behaviors mentioned above, please reach out to us for professional help.