Stressed out? Just stop!

By Dr. Philip S. Chua |January 13,2014 - 12:51 PM

We live in a complex, hurried and stress-laden society. The carousel of life spins so fast that we sometimes can’t get off and are confused with our priorities and goals. In this world of instant this and instant that, of split-second email, express grocery checkout counters, drive-up fast food, pharmacy and banking, people give high fives instead of the old-fashioned handshake, and friendly conversation is reduced to “Hi!” and “Bye.”

Everyone seems to be in a hurry. People can’t even say “Just a second, please.” They now say “Just a sec,” to save a split second of time. Everything is now, now, now. I have been so guilty of this myself, they call me “Dr. Karon” in Cebu.

Instead of mailing handwritten letters, we now transmit email messages with lightning speed, domestic and international. The whole world has shrunken much smaller and it seems even the hour has been reduced to less than 60 minutes, and the minute to less than 60 seconds.

We are all in a rat race. No time for visiting our parents, friends and other loved ones. No time for exercises or R & R. No time for contemplation and soul-searching. No time to appreciate and smell the flowers along the way. No time to commune with nature. Simply no time, except for the wild and dizzying ride in the fast lane of today’s society.

The increase in the incidence of depression, maladjustment, related illnesses like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and even suicide, are all triggered or aggravated by the severe stress we are all exposed to. Those who are able to recognize it and manage the stress on their own or with professional guidance are the ones who escape the harsh complications of stress.

If we listen to our body, the signs and symptoms of stress could be positive warnings and protective indicators that tell us to slow down, relax, enjoy, and recreate ourselves.

While stress could motivate us to accomplish great things and o our best, our individual endurance must be tailored to our own limitation. And our body will let us know.The only thing we have to do is to listen to it and save our sanity by pampering ourselves every now and then.

This is part of stress management. For Christmas, colleagues of mine—a husband and wife—gave me four books, among other gifts, when I left for the United States to spend the holidays with my family. One of these books was entitled “STOPPING.” Reading that book while on my international flight opened my mind and my eyes, and provided me a wiser perspective in life, one that I never had the time to stop for and realize.

Looking back, from the time I stepped out of high school and the 18 years of college, medical schooling, internship, residency training and fellowship that followed, and then the hectic medical practice thereafter, I was always on the expressway of my life.

Somehow, the speedy lane was the only path and direction I knew. I was caught in the vicious cycle of work, work and work, unwittingly sacrificing the beauty of life itself. It now seems that part of my life had passed me by as I was whirling away, barely noticing it.

Not experiencing every minute of our life and savoring its beauty and wonders is really missing it all. And it would indeed be a great pity if, in the twilight years of our life, we wake up one morning and wonder “Where have the all years gone? Did I enjoy life to the fullest, or did I miss it all?”

Stopping is the way to get back to life and to have a life. Although in a zip and zoom modes, we sometimes have to put the brakes on, even if the inertia throws us overboard and wakes us up. Stopping the vertiginous circus, in order to live again, seems to be the saner and healthier way.

For many of us it might be difficult to simply “slow down” gradually, because the habit we have developed over the years had conditioned our mind and body to “full speed ahead,” and reducing the pace only leads to a poor compromise. What we have to do is to just STOP as I have just learned from that book. At least to re-orient our bearings in life and review our priorities.

Stopping the vicious cycle of work and work and work does not mean quitting work altogether. All we simply have to do is to cut and punctuate at a pre-scheduled intervals this solid circle with “nonwork-related, fun-filled, pure-play” activities we have always wanted to do alone, or with our loved ones, “if we only had the time.” Time management is not limited to our job, even in this megatrendy times. It also applies, and more appropriately so, to our life and to our happiness. After all, we are here on earth to be fulfilled and to be happy. And happiness is not the destination in life. Happiness is the journey itself.

Enjoy the trip to the fullest.

Savor Life

Let us not hurry to our graves
by casting recklessly our fate.
Not much time to abuse and waste,
let all the empty gravesites wait.
Savor life’s overflowing cup
and every second we have left.
‘cause times pauses not for any man;
Let joy consume us not by chance
for we shall live this life but once.

Houston, 1972

The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people, especially parents, whose way of life inevitably impacts the health of their children, to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities, and achieve a happier and more productive life for themselves and for their offspring.

My articles are general medical information for the public and not intended to be applicable to, or appropriate for, anyone. The data, statistics, and personal commentaries presented here are not a substitute for, or inferred to be superior to, the professional opinion and recommendation of your physician, who knows your total condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.



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