Stress is a Choice—Stop Being a People Pleaser

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Why is it that some of the more highly evolved human beings are able to skate through life more or less unscathed by stress? They go about their days with a calm demeanor and an efficient, pragmatic approach to the challenges of the world.  No doubt they are continually checking off chores, accomplishments, and major life ambitions with the aid of cross-indexed spreadsheets and S.M.A.R.T.  goals.  This is in stark contrast to the rest of us, who seem to perpetually spend our days lurching about from one fuck-up and disaster to another, with our shirts inside out and covered head-to-toe in dog hair.

Obviously, these organized, methodical types are highly irritating, and one’s natural inclination is to hobble them somehow.  (I can’t help but feel that those who subscribe to the adage of “the best revenge is living well” are usually gormless types who are lacking in imagination and red-blooded vindictiveness.) Still, I believe that, with a few simple tweaks to our own habits and methodology, each of us can take great strides in improving the quality of our lives by reducing our stress, without having to go to all the trouble of becoming organized and effective.

How, you ask?  The answer to this lies not in such airy-fairy concepts as so-called “preparedness” and “coping skills,” but rather in the steadfast determination to reduce the expectations of others.  To simply say “NO,” in other words, to things that are likely to cause us anxiety or strain.

A good friend of mine, a singularly lazy sod, likes to say that “stress is a choice”.  Good luck trying to reach him by phone, email, or text if you are hoping to recruit someone to help you paint a room or move some furniture; he seems to have a preternaturally developed sense for that type of thing.  He will miraculously be available, though, if there are free concert tickets on offer, and unfailingly show up right after the Chinese food has been delivered and the driver has been paid and tipped.  I can’t tell you how much I admire this.

In my own life I, too, have discovered the benefits of being unavailable to others.  Let’s face it, once you’ve unfortunately acquired a reputation for being a reliable person who answers the phone promptly, it will never stop ringing.  This is bad.  Never mind somatic yoga, visualization therapy, or a flexitarian diet – conserving time for yourself to engage in endless hours of idleness and napping is the prime directive for a healthy, stress-free existence.

However, as important as “noping out” is, there are certain unpleasant and wholly unavoidable drains on one’s energy and time.  Things like earning a living in some way or filing tax returns, are pretty tricky to dodge, even for the wisest amongst us.

This makes it all the more important to discern and eliminate any activities that do not enrich our lives.  A great place to start is by taking a good hard look at the social engagements we sometimes recklessly commit ourselves to.  The object is to keep the social calendar fairly empty.  Which is something that, for some reason, comes quite easily to me.  However, if you are unlike me, you might find yourself in demand at a plethora of gatherings, from church restoration fund raisers to clothing optional tailgate parties.  The rule of thumb here is to be highly selective, only choosing those events that promise high levels of debauchery, an open bar, and no threat of there being any long speeches by business associates or creepy uncles, which definitely rules out office parties and family reunions.  Above all, give yourself permission to have heaps of good, selfish fun.

If you are willing to commit yourself to these simple principles, I’m sure you will find, as have I, that ceasing to be a “people pleaser” is the first step towards a healthier, happier way of being.

Namaste, for now.