Monday, March 3, 2014

Stressed Out? Find Your Serenity Now.

I used to think it was just my job that kept me around stressed out individuals, but alas, maybe it's this city.  Everyone in DC seems incredibly burdened with projects, deadlines, a million different commitments and not enough time to do it all.  But as an outsider looking into people's lives every day, I cannot avoid asking this simple question: is it all worth it?  Seriously, is killing yourself really worth the prize you are being promised?

Stress causes disease, plain and simple.  When you are not at ease, it will physically impact you.  Some signs your psychological stress is wearing on you include: hair loss, migraines, skin disorders, compromised immune systems, heart conditions, stomach problems, panic attacks, ulcers, eating disorders, and oh yes, even cancer.  It is not a coincidence that my divorce clients are often also battling serious illnesses, and that is why I encourage them to avoid litigation if possible-- for their own well-being, not just to save them money.

The fact is that you can always make more money, but you cannot buy another life.  According to a recent Money Magazine article 43% of the working population either want to switch careers or find a new job.  Well, I sincerely hope these people work on that goal right away because work consumes a huge part of our lives, and if you don't like what you do during 50% of your waking hours it is inevitable that this will affect you negatively in other areas of your life, especially your relationships with loved ones.

Now, a lot of people focus on finding coping mechanisms, some good ones like exercise, some not so good ones like daily drinking, but either way they aren't really getting to the root of the problem.   You have to address the source of your stress if you truly want to find peace and live a healthier life, and sometimes that does mean making difficult choices.  For example a less stressful job may not pay as much, and you may have to cut back on spending to live within your means, but how can you possibly put a price tag on the freedom you gain by removing all the extra pressures you will leave behind?

With respect to those that feel trapped in a bad marriage, often the main concern is that the economics won't justify splitting into two homes. Indeed, during the Great Recession, I did a lot of consults with people who opted to stay in a miserable situation to avoid what they considered financial suicide.  This is a very personal choice that each individual must make for him/herself, but personally I feel like you only have one life to live (as far as we know for sure) and I'd like to maximize my enjoyment while minimizing my discontent during the remainder of my time on Earth.  So, if people choose to stay in a broken marriage, I just hope they at least make an effort with some professional assistance to try and fix things, which is why I often recommend seeing marriage counselors and/or reading books by gurus like Drs. Gottman and Chapman.

Unfortunately, many Americans are unfamiliar with some of the great French authors.  A lot gets lost in translation sometimes, but one of my all time favorite plays is "No Exit" written by Jean Paul Sartre.  Without ruining the play, he basically defines hell as a horrible place where you are tortured daily by that which you hate the most and no matter how hard you try, there is no exit.  This is exactly how I would define hell-- and as a result, I refuse to believe there is no way out of a bad situation.  Either you work to fix things or you find an escape, but living in hell is not an option, at least not in this lifetime.

So, given the choice of living in perpetual torture or addressing the source of your stress to find serenity, the answer should be obvious.  Hopefully you will find the strength and courage to make the right choice.


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