By Silvia Uribe
In today's world, people's identity is largely based on what they do. Our value equals our net worth. As a consequence, we tend to want more than what we have - better jobs and more money so we can accumulate possessions to gain greater status. It is as if we we're little ants carrying goods ten times bigger than ourselves to our nest. We want to have the best house, the fastest car, to travel the world, and to buy brand name clothes and shoes. We compete with our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors, and with complete strangers. We compete to compete.
In order to be able to have the status we want, we have to work hard, too hard; sometimes we live to work. Many of us are workaholics who live in a constant state of stress and rarely have time to enjoy life. Our life is full of responsibilities with very little room for mental relaxation. No wonder depression is now a common ailment. It is a great paradox that societies poorer than ours (in Latin America, for instance) are happier. Their members are more willing to smile, have fun, and they rarely feel lonely or depressed.
But what happens if we peel off the layers of work, responsibilities, seriousness, and get to the root of who we really are? What happens if we forget adjectives like ‘professional', ‘punctual' and ‘organized', and try to think instead of what we enjoy the most. Maybe we could find a couple of words that define our inner self and write them down on a piece of paper. We could keep that paper in our wallet and go back to it every time we feel stressed or out of balance.
If who we are and what we enjoy is clear, we can look for balance in our lives by integrating time that's NOT available for responsibilities. But beware of the common excuses we use. A 57-year-old friend of mine, and successful dentist once told me that he would like to play the guitar. But, he said, "I don't have the time to take a class now; I'll do it when I retire." "When?" I asked He shrugged his shoulders and said, "When hell freezes over."
We know that hobbies are a great tool to bring happiness to our lives. And hobbies make us be present and enjoy the moment like little children with a balloon in their hands. The problem is, we never set time aside to practice our hobby. We ought to change this! Remember that the more life enjoyment we produce, the more productive we will be. That's when we can achieve balance and dramatically reduce stress in our live.
It is during this time of the year, that we have the perfect opportunity to start anew. We can let go of what doesn't work for us anymore. To enjoy our live more, regardless of the problems or of the people that cause them, could be a New Years resolution! There is no such thing as a life without problems, but we can manage the stress and avoid stress from managing our life.
OTHER TIPS TO REDUCE STRESS (These really work for me):
1. Think of something to look forward every day, no matter how little it may be.
2. Remember that you always have at least two options when facing a problem, a positive and a negative. Choose the positive one and put it in practice as soon as you can.
3. After something stressful or bad happens, don't dwell on it. Get distracted.
4. Do not resist the inevitable.
5. Trust that things happen for a reason
After all, the source of our stress is not as important as the way we react to it.
Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.
Cross-posted at Edhat.com