Some words of wisdom from a very wise and very dear friend of mine.
It was the first day of university for a lecture hall full of philosophy students. They sat in the steamy lecture hall, trying not to stick to the uncomfortable wooden seats. The lecturer stood at the front of the class, arranging her notes. Finally she looked up. The lecture hall buzzed for a moment and then went silent. Raising a glass half filled with water, the lecturer cleared her throat. Collectively, the students groaned and rolled their eyes. Undeterred, the lecturer waited until their displeasure became once again inaudible, and asked in a loud, clear voice:
“Ladies and gentlemen, can any of you here tell me the weight of this glass of water?”
Surprised, the students looked at one another and eventually one tentatively raised their hand.
“A half glass of water of that size would probably weigh about 200 grams miss."
The lecturer nodded and said: “Yes, perhaps, perhaps. Any other guesses?”
More students raised their hands, and an abundance of guesses filled the air of the lecture hall.
After several minutes of guesses, the lecturer raised her hand and indicated silence.
“All of those were very good guesses,” she said. "However, the exact weight in grams is not that important to this exercise. The truth is, that the glass is not that heavy and I am able to hold it here, with my hand raised without much difficulty.”
She demonstrated, lifting the glass from the table to about the height of her shoulder.
“However, what would be the effect on me if I continued to hold this glass over the span of an hour? My arm would begin to ache. My muscles might cramp, and I would feel the beginning of fatigue."
“Now students, consider if I held this glass here for an entire day. What would be the effect on my body? I imagine it would be more extreme fatigue; an almost unbearable ache in my arm, and perhaps some loss of feeling. The effort would be immense.”
“Now if I were to stand here for a week, holding this same glass of water, which weighs precisely 352 grams; how do you think my body would react? The muscles in my arm would be numb and paralysed. The strain to my mental capacities would be immense, and there would even be a possibility that during that time, that I would be unable to support the weight of this glass. I would be incapable of thinking of anything else.”
"Ladies and gentlemen, the first and one of the most important lessons you will learn in my lectures this semester, is that the glass represents stress. The longer you carry the stress with you, the more it will affect you mentally, physically and emotionally, until the moment that you choose to put it down.”
The lecturer sat the glass back down on the table.
“If you carry that stress around for a day, or for an entire week torturing yourself with negative thoughts; you will become paralysed and be unable to act. The moment you let the stress go, you are able to view a complication from a bird’s eye view, in a detached manner, and nine times out of ten, you will be able to solve the problem."
Viewing stress in this manner, as something you can choose to let go of, is a very constructive way to cope with stress and move towards stressing less. Then of course there are some very practical ways in which you can unwind such as taking a hot bath; listening to music, or even sitting down to enjoy a nice cup of tea.
I would love to hear from some of the readers about the things that stress you out the most.