Help! Everything is Stressful! (DE Wave)

Closeup of woman with eyes closed holding hand to head

It’s easy to be stressed these days. Even the simple act of taking a vacation can cause anxiety. Though you might just be visiting, stress management skills still have to be developed and maintained.

Taking the time to enjoy life’s pleasures is one of the most important aspects of managing the demands of everyday life. Obsessing on things you can’t immediately control increases stress and makes you more susceptible to depression and anxiety disorders.

Of course, refusing to think ahead or plan for the future can create its own kind of stress. Imagine if you never saved for your retirement, or didn’t carefully consider major life decisions. When the consequences of your poorly made choices finally come home to roost (and they will), your stress level would shoot sky-high.

Allow yourself to live in the moment, while still managing the course of your life so you can guiltlessly savor the pleasures along the way. After all, the purpose of responsible planning is to make decisions that bring you happiness!

Without a healthy balance between these two outlooks, the resulting frustration can take one of two forms. The first consequence of evading the responsibility of planning your life is that things will consistently go wrong. “I’m having a bad day!” or “Everything happens to me!” become familiar phrases. As the emotional costs begin to mount, so will the feelings of unhappiness and frustration.

The other discontent is still self-inflicted, but it’s the opposite extreme. You get so caught up in commitments and responsibilities that you never stop to “smell the roses” – or the salty aroma of the ocean, as the case may be. Life can quickly become a series of sad little regrets, linked by an endless chain of “what ifs.”

A big impediment to living in the moment is what mental health professionals sometimes call “irrational perfectionism.” Irrational perfectionists expect wisdom and insight to come to them automatically, without trial or error. They don’t fully appreciate the value of thought and reason in bringing about sensible conclusions to everyday problems. When they assess a problem accurately, they take it for granted that this is how it should be all the time. But when they make an error, it feels like a disaster.

Ironically, this unrealistic attitude keeps them from ever achieving the perfection they so cherish. Their frustration over being imperfect makes them feel that life is futile. Contrast this with a healthy person who might say something like, “Oh, I wonder what I did wrong! I’ll figure it out and correct it for next time.”

Note that this healthy response presupposes confidence in one’s ability to think and move forward. A healthy person doesn’t resent mistakes. Instead, he or she values the power of reason to solve problems, and engages it with conviction.

Perfection is definitely a full-time job and is a big price to pay for never enjoying any emotional refueling. Like a car without gas, a person without emotional refueling gets nowhere.

How do you emotionally refuel? Take some time to enjoy what you love: music, your pets, sports, whatever. Are you here on vacation? Then enjoy everything you came here to experience. Do you live here because you like the small-town atmosphere and the allure of the ocean? Then enjoy it every single day! Even an hour will do. Don’t let the life you’ve chosen pass you by.

Of course, it’s easy to agree with me in principle, and then go out and make excuses to not follow these suggestions. But remember: Commitments and responsibilities don’t have to keep you from enjoying every day, complete with its ups and downs. We’re all accountable for our own contentment, so allow yourself to delight in the pleasures that living in the moment can bring.

Plan and think about tomorrow, next month, or next year? Absolutely! But, in the process, don’t forget the precious minutes, seconds and hours.

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