You know a lot of people always say that we are stressed out because we need to “get away for a while”, “reconnect with nature”, or just take a long vacation. It’s no mystery that stress can be one of the biggest killers, and hindrances in our lives. How we deal with that stress is paramount to us living a fulfilled existence. Some people just have to get away, spending a weekend indulging the senses far away from reality, taking weekend retreats, or just hopping a plane to a place they’ve never been. Although I really do enjoy all those things, when used as a way to escape from our problems, are we doing more harm than good? Aren’t our problems waiting for us, almost heavier than when we left? My opinion is that running away for the weekend can take us further away from our realities and really can make things more stressful if not combined with actually addressing whatever problems you are having.
Now a weekend getaway every here and there is perfectly fine. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try and make a connection with the earth, or a connection to a beach and margarita, or a connection to a campfire and fishing. I love all that stuff, and it is relaxing and peaceful. Escape can be a great way to lower stress and decompress from our daily lives. It’s nice to take a break from our normal routines every once in a while and that in itself is relaxing. We can’t paint everyone with such broad strokes though.
As a species we are able to adapt to almost any environment we are put in. Just as we are able to adapt to situations we are put in, we too can adapt to the environment we are placed in no matter how far or close from the woods, the beach or the big city. Though there are some habits within those environments that might be the factor of our stress, shopping til you drop, going belly up at the bar, or walking around barefoot in the forest isn’t necessarily the best way to attack your problems, if it’s your only way to address things.
Take heading out for a weekend in nature for example. Nature means a lot of things to different people, from canoeing and fishing, to camping and hotdogs to scaling a mountain or doing yoga in the woods. The important thing is connecting with something, not just someone else’s idea of nature. It is finding a balance between your work life, home life, and play.
I’ll be honest, as much as I like to be in nature, away from it all, I also like to be in a comfortable home with reruns on TV and a warm cup of tea. When stressful situations arrive in my life I try not to necessarily remove myself from the stress by running away and ignoring it, but I have learned to remove the stress from me. It seems unrealistic but really think this over. You only have one life and you can do with it what you choose. If your job is causing you stress and you can’t navigate it, find a new one. Don’t just come home unhappy, and try and escape and drown those things out. Try and find peace in as many places as possible, not just in your escape. If you are always finding a way to wind down, or get away from your busy life, will you ever stop running? Find the peace now!
My solution to the running is quite the opposite. As a self proclaimed explorer of both the natural and the urban landscape, I try and find the silver lining in my situation whatever it may be. It’s not necessarily a disconnect, but a perspective issue. As I’ve mentioned, spending time outside is a fantastic way to change your perspective. The sunshine is scientifically proven to elevate your mood and being away from distractions can help you think more clearly. It isn’t however the only way someone can connect, disconnect, dissect or improve their situation. Perspective is number one, and as ridiculous as this sounds. You have to decide to be happy. No amount of sitting on the beach, drinking a margarita will change your perspective about your reality, unless of course your reality is sitting on the beach with a margarita, and then, well, you have already arrived.
When someone says to me our problems all stem from a disconnect from anything else, I just don’t buy it. Our problems stem from many causes, natural and unnatural and the only thing we can change is our perspective. You have to actively seek and peruse happiness everyday, and only then will it find you. Only when you make the decision to live more positively will you realize vacations, strong drinks, and whatever else you may use to escape aren’t the way to attack problems but a way to enrich and enjoy your time on this earth. However we decide to get to that perspective is up to us, if we even choose to get there at all. Our nature has truly evolved us is into whatever environment we live in. Eliminating the reality of our lives seems take us further from the reality we live in. Are we connecting or disconnecting when we “get away”?
Myself and many others that I know make their living thanks to an Internet connection. This lifestyle allows them to spend more time with their family, and more time focusing on what’s important to them. It’s not the connection or disconnection from the world here that makes my life easier, but the disconnection from conventional work and connection with my passions.
I’m not saying that no one’s problems can be solved by spending a weekend hiking, or swimming, or shopping. On the contrary I think that it can help you gain perspective on the reality you live in. When you try to escape from your problems you aren’t solving them, just merely putting them on hold. I do though, think it is important to be able to navigate the landscape you are put in. I might be wrong but when it comes to my life I have found that removing the stress from my life instead of trying to temporarily remove myself from the stress is much more productive. I address the issues and make peace as soon as I can. That way I don’t have to escape, disconnect, and run forever. In this way I’m not necessarily looking for an escape, but to live in my reality, in a way that I can truly connect with whats important to me.
Here are some tips to naturally manage your stress, and here’s hoping you are living a happy and fulfilled life!
1. Look at what is causing the stress in your life. There might be specific places, people, or things that can make you feel anxious or nervous. Being able to acknowledge what causes your stress is one of the first ways to deal with it.
2. Make sure to communicate with your family and friends. It’s important to have social connections so you have a support system when things go awry.
3. Try and open up. Keeping unhealthy emotions inside can only make things worse. Tried to express your thoughts and feelings when you feel stressed, nervous, or upset.
4. Try and simplify your life as much as you can. Evaluate your priorities and see what things are most important and which activities you can trim. Getting more rest and having more free time to be with your family and friends can really help you mellow out.
5. Get some exercise. Improve the way that you eat. Getting 30 minutes or more of physical exercise a day in combination with a healthy diet cannot only improve your weight but also your energy, your self-confidence, and your overall mental health and wellness making a considerably easier for you to handle the stress you already have in your life.
6. Consider taking a break from the media and the news. My wife and I do this periodically and note that it makes us feel less anxious. Instead of calling it the news I usually just call it a “bad news”. The emotional stories in the news have been shown to affect our moods negatively, so a fast every so often could do you some good.
7. Consider trying some mind and body exercises such as meditating, yoga, or just a brisk walk. I find that when I go for a walk it often gives me the peace and clarity to think of how I would like to deal with the daily stressors in my life. I do some of my best thinking on my early morning walks.
As I said before I do think that getting away for a while is a great way to decompress and de-stress your life. However if you do not take the time to evaluate the stressors you have in your life and how to permanently remove them you’ll be trying to get away every weekend for the rest of your life. There are five other days in the week and here’s to making them positive as well.