“We live longer than our forefathers; but we suffer more from a thousand artificial anxieties and cares. They fatigued only the muscles, we exhaust the finer strength of the nerves.” - Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Are we going mad collectively? Has our society reached such a level of stress and distress, that we are being driven insane by the massive shocks that assail us every day? Have we lost the ability to cope and are we being driven crazy? The more I listen to the news, the more convinced I become that this is indeed the case with more and more those around us losing touch with the reality that is so traumatic, that they become demented.
The latest news out of one of England’s most beautiful places, the Lake District, is an example of this. The 52-year-old man, cab driver, who killed 12 people and injured at least 26 others as he drove around for three-and-a-half hours, surely must have snapped! The man is a divorced father of two and was described by shocked friends and family as a quiet, “regular” guy. Yet, this ordinary person purposefully drove around the tranquil countryside of Cumbria and indiscriminately shot people he didn’t know: An elderly shopper whom he beckoned to approach him before shooting her in cold blood; a father of two in his 30s, gunned down as he trimmed a hedge; and a 64-year-old grandfather who unluckily was riding his bike past the cab driver’s taxi.
But it gets worse! The man is believed to have been driven to execute his terrible rampage after he and his twin brother had a bitter row over his mother’s will. He shot his twin brother and then executed a solicitor who had been advising the family. He then went to kill some of his colleagues, taxi drivers with whom he had argued previously. The deadly carnage ended in even more blood as finally the unhinged cabbie shot himself fatally in remote woodland. Police were initially concerned that the man had also killed his mother, but she was found alive and is now being taken of by family.
How much pent-up hatred must have been festering inside this man for so long! How the lure of filthy lucre must have corrupted his logic, drowned any sense of morality, destroyed any sense of love or even sense of duty and respect towards his own family! How I pity the poor mother who now has to deal with the death of her twin sons, but also the knowledge that one had succumbed to fratricide and then to suicide after a bloody spree which killed so many and destroyed so many lives. It would be understandable is she were to go mad herself…
We live in an increasingly toxic society, surrounded by daily occurrences that subject us to countless tensions, engender anxiety, cause endless strain. We are constantly assailed by messages through the mass media that try to convince us that consumerism means happiness and that money can buy everything and everyone. We accumulate anger, frustration, dissatisfaction, disappointment, we bottle up our negativity and discontent. If we fail to develop mechanisms to resist this onslaught, the spring snaps and breaks. We move into an uncontrolled cycle of insanity that may end in violence – against others, against ourselves.
How can we prevent it? Is it possible to prevent it? Of course it is. There are so many people around us who live in the same environment as those who become unhinged and manage to live balanced and contented lives. I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that although I have a demanding job with many challenges, much responsibility and many stressors, I manage to remain free of stress and function well. How do I do it?
Firstly, one must be able to think coolly, control emotions positively and channel one’s energy away from negativity. One must have a sense of the spiritual. There must be creativity and humour in one’s life. People who work hard must learn to relax and play hard as well. Here are some pointers:
- If you have no control over something, stop trying to alter it, check it or curb it. Rather accept that you cannot change it and move on. This can generate an enormous sense of peace and liberation.
- Stop and reflect on situations that stress you. Take deep breaths, calm yourself down and remove your thoughts from the situation that is causing you angst.
- Meditation and yoga are another step in the right direction and if you can get into these, you will find that serenity will enter your life.
- Regular exercise can also have a positive de-stressing effect.
- Take the initiative to have a mental health day. We need a day like that every now and then to restore and renew our mind and soul. Don’t feel guilty, remember this is for your mental health and you are taking care of yourself.
- Pamper yourself. Take a warm bath. Get a massage!
- Read a good book that will allow you to enter another world and escape. Relax and let your imagination run riot.
- Play! With your kids, play with your friends or your partner, but play!! You are never too old.
- And last, but perhaps most important of all, laugh…
stress |stres| noun
1 pressure or tension exerted on a material object: The distribution of stress is uniform across the bar.
• the degree of this measured in units of force per unit area.
2 a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances: He's obviously under a lot of stress | [in combination] stress-related illnesses.
• something that causes such a state: The stresses and strains of public life.
3 particular emphasis or importance: He has started to lay greater stress on the government's role in industry.
• emphasis given to a particular syllable or word in speech, typically through a combination of relatively greater loudness, higher pitch, and longer duration: Normally, the stress falls on the first syllable.
1 [ reporting verb ] give particular emphasis or importance to (a point, statement, or idea) made in speech or writing : [ trans. ] They stressed the need for reform | [with clause ] She was anxious to stress that her daughter's safety was her only concern | [with direct speech ] “I want it done very, very neatly,” she stressed.
• [ trans. ] give emphasis to (a syllable or word) when pronouncing it.
2 [ trans. ] subject to pressure or tension: This type of workout does stress the shoulder and knee joints.
3 [ trans. ] cause mental or emotional strain or tension in: I avoid many of the things that used to stress me before | [as adj. ] ( stressed) She should see a doctor if she is feeling particularly stressed out.
• [ intrans. ] informal become tense or anxious; worry: Don't stress—there's plenty of time to get a grip on the situation.
stressor |-ər| noun (in senses 2 and 3 of the verb) .
ORIGIN Middle English (denoting hardship or force exerted on a person for the purpose of compulsion): Shortening of distress , or partly from Old French estresse ‘narrowness, oppression,’ based on Latin strictus ‘drawn tight’.