Compared to my previous lives, I can say my life now is largely free of stress. Sure, there is the stress of travel and I haven’t overcome many of my pet peeves. South Asia presents its own unique forms of stress I need to accept and adapt to. And, finally, the unknown gives me stress sometimes, which is what leads me to write this article.
I think maybe I am more sensitive to stress. Either that or I am more aware of it, but for me it manifests itself physically. Sometimes my eye will twitch, my hands will shake slightly, my gastrointestinal tract will be unhappy, etc.
I was reminded of all this the day I went to find out if I got the Indian visa. I had a three hour wait to find out if I got the visa, and my nerves were on edge the whole time!
If I didn’t get the visa, it would mean lots of work I’d have to do immediately to figure out where to go after Nepal. I would have to fly somewhere expensively and I’d also be sad I couldn’t experience India.
I’m usually pretty good at not worrying much about things beyond my control, but I seemed to be powerless against the stress the Embassy of India was causing me! I brought my laptop, I wrote articles for this site, but no amount of distraction seemed sufficient.
In the end, I got the visa.
But stress seems to have a long half-life. It didn’t just disappear. I could still feel it within me. Worse, I forgot how much energy stress sucks out of you. It’s like a virus!
I was completely tired by 6pm, the time I left the embassy with the visa in my hand. But it wasn’t a normal strain of tired. My eyes were tired, my head felt tired.. my soul felt tired!
It’ll Kill You
Going back to the title of this post, it’s now so easy to see how stress is really a killer. All that sucking of energy, all that worry, it has to manifest itself negatively somehow. And I think many people don’t even realize it’s happening, as life in the modern world is an exercise in stress management whether you like it or not.
I can see it with my friends. The ones with very stressful lives seem to age so quickly! I seem to get younger as time goes on. A friend in Thailand called me Benjamin Button, the subject of a movie about a man who gets younger as he ages. That’s a stretch, but I do seem to look younger now than I looked five or ten years ago.
When I went back to the U.S. in May, I saw how much stress the “modern,” fast-paced lifestyle creates in and of itself. Though I had very little to be stressed out about, apart from doing live radio interviews for the first time, I too had caught the stress virus.
I remember eating breakfast with my uncle and looking down at my hands. They were trembling. I couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t caffeine or any other typical cause. It was just the stress in the air, a contagious disease hard to cure.
I don’t have any magic cures for stress. I see many people numbing themselves of it via drugs, alcohol, sex, TV, and other unhealthy behaviors. Those aren’t the answer, of course.
But part of The Happiness Plunge is asking yourself hard questions and striving to understand who you are from the inside out. As part of that process, you should get to know yourself better and you’ll learn how to cope and deal with stress in a more healthy way.
In my case, in Denmark I used to do yoga. The breathing exercises helped me immensely. I breathe much more deeply and much more slowly by default now as a result. I would come home from work and do yoga immediately to transition from stressful work life to peaceful home life. By slowing myself down I discovered it helped me deflect almost all strains of the stress virus known to man.
In my current life as a nomad, I see myself as living with one foot in my world largely free of stress, and one foot in the “modern,” stress-filled, self-consuming, stressful world. It’s a balance and my world (the world is my home) is kind of like my sanctuary. Part of sharing what I’m doing and The Happiness Plunge is my sincere hope that others too can find their sanctuaries and live a happier, more rewarding life.