A couple of years ago I worked for the government and had a job that most people would consider stressful. Ultimately it wasn’t so much the job itself as it was the accumulation of years of stress that had been creeping up on me.
WoFat, a friend of mine who follows this blog, told me that he had been in a similar situation and he received good advice. “If you keep it up either you’ll kill somebody or they’ll kill you.” The advice was sound. And I retired and shifted my occupational focus. It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Stress is cumulative. If you look at a glass of water, judge its weight. Assume it’s eight ounces. Not all that heavy. But it’s not the absolute weight that matters, if you hold it straight out in front of you. Hold it for a minute, not a problem. Hold it for an hour, your arm will ache, hold it for a day and you’ll need a doctor.
The weight is the same but the longer you hold it, the heavier it becomes. That’s how stress works. If you carry the burden all the time, sooner or later the weight will become too heavy and you won’t be able to carry it any further.
It’s easy to have people preach about how you should shuck off the stress, but it’s much easier to say than to do. The longer you hold it the more damage it does – cumulatively. And it can kill you. Freedom means being able to control the stressful elements of your life and to manage them. Setting down the glass of water and walking away from it, only lifting it periodically doesn’t make it any lighter or heavier but it makes the effort much easier to manage.