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  • Writer's pictureGillian Padgett

And so – what is this thing called stress?

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Whilst enjoying an excellent breakfast in Banff recently, my attention was drawn to a calm, Canadian voice saying: “If you don’t need the money and wouldn’t do your job for pure pleasure, then quit.”

This seemed such sound advice. Fleetingly, my mind ran pictures of people searching for the perfect job playing a form of musical chairs in the workplace. “Try this one – if you don’t like it there’s another one, and when the music stops try that.”

There are millions of things in life that we may not list as pure please which may not be stressful or harmful. And yet here is the dilemma – what may be stressful to me may not be stressful to you. Indeed, what is a delight to me on Monday may seem to be just OK on Wednesday and highly stressful on Sunday. And what is stressful on Tuesday may be a joy on Friday.

Here is a list of stressors: driving the car – talking on the phone – taking a holiday – seeing a baby – jam – spiders – travelling – dogs – watching a film – seeing the News on TV – reading a novel – writing a letter – paying a bill – going shopping – seeing someone with long hair – meeting friends – getting married – getting divorced – baking a cake – listening to music – hearing laughter – the sound of the sea – someone smiling at you – meeting people – moving house – fun fairs – airplanes.

Confusingly, this could also be a pleasure list! Could it be that the events themselves are not stressors at all and that we ourselves allow or cause the stress?

If I see a baby and my heart fills with warmth, love and delight and at the same time another person sees the baby and is filled with pain, anguish and stress and a third person seeing the baby is filled with anger, hatred and stress – is the baby a great emotional manipulator? Or are the individuals seeing the baby the manipulators of their own feelings?

Just as a house is built of many bricks, so we have become exactly as we are from each of our life experiences – metaphorical bricks – being built one upon another from babyhood to old age. We are influenced by everything - families, friends, neighborhood, religion, sights and sounds in life’s school of hard knocks. Our beliefs, thoughts and feelings are created along with our reactions to life. We make unconscious decisions as to what will give us pleasure and pain, what will annoy us, when to be fearful or ecstatic and the types of friendships and relationships to make.

A mother who is afraid of mice will teach (in an indirect way) her children to be afraid of mice. Parents who are overweight and comfort eat will (by example) let this behavior be acceptable to their children. Members of one family often bemoan that they all “suffer from their nerves.” And yet the children away from their family influences could easily love mice, eat healthily and be the correct weight, and live a happy life being totally oblivious to their nerves.

And so we do have alternatives. We could believe we are afraid of x or we could believe we are afraid of y. On the other hand, we could be unafraid of anything unless confronted by a dangerous situation – and then our fears would help us to act appropriately by allowing the adrenalin to flow and our brain to make an instant decision as to whether to fight, freeze or run like the wind.

I know that we can change our beliefs and reactions from being personally unhelpful to helpful. I have seen people who had histories of panic attacks change their present and future slowly or quickly to be completely free of panic attacks. Others have found ways to view past pain and discomfort differently – with learnings, strength and comfort. Others have moved from depression to enjoyment of life. This list is too long to continue here, but it is clear to me that WE CAN CHANGE OUR OWN REALITY to something very good for us.

Each person can find the most effective fulfilling and enjoyable way for themselves to lead a stress-free life by simply re-discovering how to KNOW what is right for them. Since babyhood we have been conditioned NOT to listen to ourselves – so much must/should/ought to be done, in a particular way, by a certain time, and to be loved and accepted we have deadened our own natural knowingness.

Wild animals simply KNOW when to eat, what to eat, when to sleep and how long for, and when to move from a hostile environment to another more friendly one. We have been conditioned to accept basic stressors in our daily lives that can unbalance our whole being – to eat at certain times that may not be good for us; to eat food that is often far more financially beneficial to the producers than nutritionally beneficial to us; to sleep at certain times; to adapt in the best ways we can to uncaring, unloving and unsupportive folks around us and hang in there with a stiff upper lip in an environment that is practically killing us.

Oh! About that job – perhaps it would be right to change it if you don’t feel pure pleasure doing it. Only YOU really KNOW what is right for you. A word of caution before you join the musical job market – remember to check where your stress is coming from. Maybe you can change your perception of something quite simple, and so your feelings, to remove the stress.

The most important fact of all, I have left to last – pleasure, happiness and joy quickly fade unless they come from within.

But then – what are these things called pleasure, happiness and joy?

Gillian Padgett, MISMA, MNLP, CHT

Article from Bath City Life Magazine – published in 1994

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