It is so very, very easy to look out at the world and to believe that all of the difficult and horrible things that are happening are due to someone else. Some other group of people. Some set of circumstances beyond our lives. So, not only do we find ourselves in the position of feeling afraid and overwhelmed, simultaneously we can feel that it is beyond our control to do anything about what is happening.
Every semester, with the college students I teach, we do a group think exercise at the board. I divide the white board up into the following categories; physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual. Then, we collectively brainstorm on all of the costs associated with living stressed out. As you might imagine, the list includes things like headaches, insomnia, illness, irritability, anger, isolation, poor judgment, anxiety, depression and lack of faith. Just to name a few. This is nothing new. We know this. What we don’t know or think about is how this personal experience of being so out of balance is impacting the world we live in.
What we do next is to imagine what kind of a world we are creating by living in a state of chronic and habitual stress. Words like “unsafe, unhealthy, unnatural, scary, pessimistic, dark, bad and toxic regularly make the list. It is always a sobering moment to be in a group of people realizing not only what their behavior is costing them, but how it is creating the very things that they loathe and fear in the world. Before our next class, their homework assignment is to catch themselves in a stress response noticing what kind of a world they are creating when they live from a place of tension and overwhelm.
If we have any hope of things changing for us collectively, we must begin to connect the dots between our personal choices and the state of the world. And we must do this not in theory, but in practice. Daily practice. So, what do your stressed out behaviors and choices cost you? What do they cost the world?