Prelude: On December 14th, 2013, I lost a very dear friend. A beautiful spirit. A wonderful young lady by the name of Alyx Fisher. This bright-eyed young lady didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t swear, went to Church. Did everything a respectable woman was supposed to do. But she wasn’t without her problems. Like most of us, she had her worries. Especially as a single mother of 2 young men. But her worries consumed her, no matter how much she prayed and hoped and waiting, nothing happened. And she despite the support all her friends gave, she still worried. And as she worried, it affected her mentally. And as it affected her mentally, it began to affect her physically. And finally, her body shut down. A beautiful, bright young person, worried herself to death. Now while this wasn’t the primary cause, it speaks to an all-too-familiar yet unspoken plague of our society. Stress and how it can literally destroy us….
We all have our worries in life. Just human nature. From worrying about whether we are doing right by our kids to can we pay a bill to more trivial things like watching a last second field goal to win a game or whether we are in the right outfit for a party. But at what point do our worries mentally begin to affect us physically? Emotionally? What is a healthy amount of stress and what is unhealthy? Well the Quiet Kid has done the research and the following are going to make all of us re-evaluate how much pressure we put on ourselves. I want to start with a number. That number is 93. That is the percentage of Americans who have stated that they stress about at least 1 thing everyday. 93%. The number 1 thing is money. But the second thing on that list is what surprised me. Perception/image was #2. Ahead of family, ahead of work, was perception. What somebody else thinks about them or how they are viewed. I don’t know whether to laugh in amazement or laugh at the disappointment in that type of culture. So I’ll do both. I’m going to throw out a couple more numbers to further open some eyes. What do the 3rd leading cause of Teen suicide, The #2 cause of eating disorders and the #1 cause of depression amongst teens and young adults 15-23 all have in common? Yep, you guess it. Perception/image. The opinions of others. How shallow have we become as a people that what others think about us as individuals, actually can lead us to ruin our own lives? We speak of embracing individuality but yet people destroy themselves living up to someone else’s standards. And main root of this starts right at home. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters. The pressures of some who have to live up to a family name. Or a family image. The pressures of not being able to be yourself because being yourself might conflict with what your family represents. Is this really the world we wake up everyday, proud to be a part of? Is this really what we inspire for future generations? That the only path to acceptance is through the eyes of another? Even in the school of young children. Where the environment is popularity over prosperity. Where the person voted most likely to succeed is often times not the most popular person in class. Even in the modern workplace. Where positions are often based on perception. Where the confidence in a person can change just judging on the image they give off. How do we preach education and image at the same time? Is education somehow more important if you don’t have the image? Is it less if you do? But I’m leaning away from the subject. On to my next point.
The next leading stress cause: The Workplace. And not so much the environment. But, and we have all had 1, that over-demanding boss. That person who expects perfection from you. You can’t be late. You can’t have an emergency. It’s be here and do the job or I will find someone else who will. How do one properly perform under those circumstances? Find the motivation to go to work, knowing that they are one mistake away from being replaced? People who go to work sick, have that fear. People who would collapse on the job rather than stay at home, have that fear. Sure, we all like money. But as a boss once told me, “what good is the money if you aren’t alive to spend it?”. What is risking your life for one day. Depending on your religious or spiritual belief, there is a word that the Buddhists use as a balance of life. Kharma(its proper spelling). The expression that the energy you present is the energy you will receive. Or as modern society has coined it, you get what you receive. Just because one job doesn’t appreciate you doesn’t mean that you’ll never work again. US News and World Report has shown that employees who enjoy the work they do and the workplace are 72% more likely to live healthier lives and be more productive in the workplace. People often ruin their bodies, their minds and ultimately, their lives for places that will continue regardless of whether they are there or not. Now this isn’t to say everyone up and quit their job, but find a field that makes you happy. The great philosopher Alan Watts once stated “If you find something you enjoy doing, and make a passion out of it, you can turn it into a career”. Musicians, Athletes, Actors/Actresses. All career fields that are the result of taking a passion and making it a career. Too many times, as I have been guilty of myself, we break our bodies, and sometimes our spirits, for currency. Material things. And what do we show for it? Is this how we want to be remembered? Too much time making money we can never spend? Let me continue….
I want to address another issue that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. PTSD. For the oblivious, that’s Post Tramatic Stress Disorder. I have seen what this crippling mental disease can do, first hand. Especially to those in the military, who fight the wars that cowards in suits start, wear scars that never heal and experience tragedies they never recover from. Who give the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to return to countries that say once they have stop serving, they no longer matter. No quality aftercare, mental treatments, attention. But this disease isn’t just to the military, but people who live through life-altering events. Near-death experiences, witnessing the death of someone first-hand, the loss of a person. And the disease isn’t the problem. It’s the care these money hungry doctors prescribe. Pills. No one believes in real help anymore. Everything is pills. Take this pill, take that pill. Who said drugs aren’t legal? Just not the drugs that the government can’t regulate. That the insurance companies can’t profit from. The Christian bible speaks of helping thy brother. But where is the help? 44% of Americans either suffer or have suffer from some sort of mental illness triggered by stress. And with over 17 million certified Psychiatrists in this country, it’s no excuse how the number of cured mental diseases is at a record low but the profits of pharmaceutical companies is on record pace. How many serial killings, tragedies, acts of violence of the mentally disturbed could have been avoided by simple communication? Understanding? Instead of the medicated wait-and-see approach? Then blaming it on the medication when it goes wrong. But I get to final point.
People joke about stress. Like its a laughing matter. Like Stress is supposed to happen to everyone. But it isn’t. Stress literally KILLS people. Pride can lead to stress. People being too proud to admit they need help. That they can’t dot alone, because of the “perception” of weakness. Disappointment leads to stress. Stress is all mental. Stress only exists in the mind of the individual. Never put more pressure on yourself than you can handle. Never feel like you have to live up to anyone else’s expectations other than your own. Tomorrow isn’t a promise to any of us, why spend it worrying? If you get another day to get it right, it’s another opportunity to fix it. If you don’t get a tomorrow, you ended your life worrying about something you still didn’t fix. A lot of religious and spiritual people break themselves living up to the standards set before them by somebody else. Your faith and belief in the god in which you believe is YOUR faith and belief. Not your pastors, or bishops, or cardinals, or ministers, But Yours. There is an expression that starts something like “By the time a message reaches from person #1 to person #100, the message has completely changed”. Live your life how you think your God or Spirit wants you to, not what someone else told you it should. The viewpoint of every message is different. Family and friends, don’t feel like you have to be what they want to to. We, as humans, all make mistakes. Make questionable decisions. That’s the glory of life. That’s how lessons are learned. Good or bad. Because the same people who point the finger never like the finger pointed back. We teach the next generation to be Individuals but yet, we ourselves worry of what others think. The Mind is a powerful tool. It controls the body. So many are afraid to talk about how they really feel, what they really think, who they really are, because of others and how they are viewed. The number 1 killer of individuality is opinion. People don’t feel comfortable with themselves because of someone else.
In closing, I leave you with this. If we spent more time worrying about being ourselves and not being what the world wants us to, we could prosper. Live longer lives, be more productive in the workplace, in our personal lives. If we uplifted instead of degraded, put more into prosperity instead of popularity, the things we often stress ourselves physically over, would be obsolete. Stress is the leading cause of Migraine headaches, 4/10 major mental illnesses including depression and bi-polar disorder, and top contributing cause to workplace injuries and deaths, as most workplace accidents are the result of fatigue from stress or lack of attention due to stress. I invite a challenge to us all. If you are that boss at work, try uplifting and being positive to your employees. If you have a friend that feels like no one is there for them or they have no one to talk to, be that person. And be that person in confidence. Not as a gossip piece or as ammunition to use if they ever turn on you. If you are that family member, be that support piece. If you have a gay relative and you have a religious family, remember what the Book says about judgement. It’s not mans place. If you have a relative who can’t get right, who can’t find a way, be that direction for them. Lead them. Show them it’s a better way, and even if it doesn’t work, they know that you didn’t give up on them. Be a better person by being a better person to those around you. And if it isn’t productive to your life or your health than it isn’t necessary in your life or your health.. Until next time… signing off..
In Loving memory of one of my favorite people ever, Alyx. Your fight will never be forgotten. Your words will always be remembered. And your memory will always live in my Heart..