In our lightning-paced, media-laced, rat-raced world, we are bombarded by every kind of stress conceivable. (Note: I talk about the Speed of Life in more detail on www.MariaShriver.com).
Everyone handles stress differently, but I’ve noticed that to live with these stressors, some people may choose to use a cynical or dismissive posture like a shield to deflect all that comes in their path. I believe that coldness and anger are really just hurts or fears that have hardened. And, when we’re hard like that, nothing sticks. So, many become more connected to their iPhones than the people in the world around them. In time, it makes this “disconnected” state-of-being the norm, and that actually makes stress more acute.
This is the first generation of children predicted to not outlive their parents due to stress-related issues, and the number of people who reported stress-related problems in the past year has gone up immensely.
Ok, yes, stress is real, life is imperfect. In my book, Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale, I equate it to the difference between the baker and the cook. Anyone who likes to cook knows that when you’re cooking, you can sprinkle in a little of this and add a dash of that without the real need to “measure” anything out. Sometimes the dish tastes delicious, and other times, well let’s just say WAY TOO MUCH GARLIC!! Life is like the cook – it sprinkles stuff in unexpectedly that turns out to be amazing, and sometimes, it gives us something that is just awful.
But, in baking, there is little room to sprinkle or dash anything – you have to measure things out carefully or you end up with a big flop completely inedible!! Let life be the “cook”, we are the bakers. And, to be like “bakers’ in our lives, everything we do is a choice, and we choose to add things in to our lives with purpose and intention.
So, while “stress” is a part of life, we can choose to do things to combat the negative effects of stress, so we can stay connected to the world around us, our purpose, and get back to basics – humanity…
If we choose to make a difference, touch lives, connect with our goodness and share our strengths the cynicism melts away. These can be little gestures, or bold, committed actions. If you take tens of millions of them everyday and turn them loose on the world, our lives, ALL of our lives, will be noticeably better…
Here are 3 examples of things we can do to melt the cynicism and stress away, touch lives, connect with each other, and make our own lives better in the process:
1. Share your gifts – Focus on what you CAN do, what your GIFTS are, and serve others from the heart…when we help others, we heal ourselves. If you love to paint, offer to paint a friend’s home or office or go to your local shelter and offer to paint there! If you love to scrapbook, offer to scrapbook your friend’s photos or make a scrapbook collage for your child’s school.
2. Share in Your Community – Get involved in your neighborhood by using your talents to organize an event – if you’re a musician, create a Neighborhood Jam Night, if you love to cook, try a Town Tasting where home cooks can share their tastiest creations, if you love sports, set up an Annual Football on the Square event! You get my drift.
3. Volunteer with a Nonprofit– Share your gifts with a nonprofit organization and offer to do something for them that lights you up. This is Terry Grahl’s formula for finding volunteers who are invested in her organization, Enchanted Makeovers – she always asks the volunteers what they love to do, as opposed to assigning “just anything” to do!
I am also careful to remember that teachers come in many forms, not just older, wiser people. Nature has been a great teacher to me – learning from birds that while soaring looks simple, it takes a lot of work, even pain, to learn how to fly, and often that bird was kicked out of its nest by its mother. My children, my precious gifts from God, have been my greatest teachers. They remind me every day of our essence, who we are each born to be. And what do they love the most? Sharing, listening, connecting, being present, looking at the moon and stars in the sky, telling me a silly story, laughing, giggling, dancing, living…