Stress: Always Look for the Bigger Picture

It’s a strange fact, yet I encounter it over and over again. The people who have relatively minor worries in their lives often stress more than those who have genuine life-threatening or life-destroying illnesses.

Now this doesn’t seem to make sense. Yet, as stressed as many of my clients are, in general, they worry a lot less than those who live more seemingly carefree lives.

As a psychologist, I have over the years heard some terrible stories of extreme hardship, and yes, these people are often chronically depressed and anxious. And yet, the majority of the so-called “normal” and “healthy” people I interact with have less enlightened views on life than the emotionally ill.

For example, my neighbor is constantly stressed and looking ragged because they are having extensions done. Yes, having the back part of your house in an uproar and tradesman coming and going at seemingly random times is very stressful. I’ve been there myself. And yet, having an extension put on is a choice. Having a mental illness is not. Or any illness for that matter.

I hear stories from harassed mothers who take their children to three different sports or other activities after school. They sound and look flurried. Again this is a choice to take on such a load. In our mad haste to “have it all” and “do it all” we often forget not only to smell the roses, but that we do have a choice in how many activities we load our day with. I do find it hard to take someone seriously when they whine that their holiday had to be postponed for a month or the lounge they ordered is the wrong color and has to go back.

I deal with people who have not had a holiday for over fifteen years because of a mental illness. And due to that illness, money is not free enough to purchase a new lounge. Yet, despite their illness, there is a certain serenity about these latter people that others often do not possess. In short, they have worked out not to stress about little things.

It is not a calamity to have your holiday put back, the plasterers not arrive, the house-moving brought forward, the ballet concert on the same day as the football finals. Making these events big issues in your own mind not only stresses your nervous system but it devalues the real suffering of others.

Always look for the bigger picture when fate deals you a seemingly serious blow. If you step back for a moment, you’ll not only realize that it’s likely not a crisis at all, but you’ll do your circulatory system a great service as well by doing so!

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