“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace.” ~Joan Borysenko
Every day I meet with people who are stressed and want things to be different. I also encounter people who are so distressed they’ve accepted suffering’s dominion over their life. Almost all, however, are interested in the concept of change.
Still, taking small, conscious steps toward a healthier emotional, mental, and physical life can sometimes seem overwhelming. More people have told me “I’m so busy—I can’t fit one more thing into my day!” than not. But what’s the alternative? It’s being just happy enough to be miserable.
Take it from me. Early in my career, I decided to take a position with a new for-profit, up-and-coming business, determined to climb the professional ladder quickly. Immediately I moved my family from our safe, rural life to fast-paced, competitive Washington, DC.
I became obsessed with work, committed, and my boss recognized my energy level and capacity to manage by awarding me with, of course, more work.
At the time, I took this as a compliment; I saw it as evidence that I was achieving a goal. I did not recognize what my work was extracting from me physically, emotionally, and mentally until, ironically, I took a long overdue vacation.
Walking out to the pool, my wife mentioned that we had forgotten the suntan lotion. Offering to retrieve it, I suddenly began to feel dizzy as I approached the lobby, anxious waiting for the elevator.
I was sweating in the air-conditioning, and there was a sense of impending doom as I approached our room. I was afraid to walk inside, fearful there might be a blinking red light on my phone indicating a message from my boss about work.
Seeing no red light, I was able to breathe again and regain my balance. But the truth was clear: The red light was a metaphor. If I didn’t begin caring for myself, soon enough I would be in a van with red lights whirling all around me.