De-Stress with Less
I don’t know anyone who isn’t stressed and often lonely these days. It started with COVID and just spiraled.
Loneliness is one of the biggest complaints from people of all ages. Loneliness and isolation which by most expert’s accounts really took off with social media. I’ve said it before, liking someone’s post or story on Instagram or Facebook is not a relationship or a friendship.
I actually scolded a friend the other day and said, look DMing me on Instagram is not friendship. I text or try and call you and you send me goofy videos. He picked up the phone and called me after that.
As Barbra S. says, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
One could update that to people who are addicted to Facebook are the loneliest people in the world.
It’s been surveyed and written about ad-nauseum, but it’s true.
People started disconnecting from other people with the advent of social media and COVID only increased the situation. Then you add on top of it most offices have not fully returned, so people, especially young people, who should be out meeting new people, are working from their homes.
Thanks to that we have an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in this country which makes everyone stressed.
People are stressed because of the world in general. You can’t have thirty-six mass shootings in the first twenty -six days of the year and not be stressed. You can’t worry about going out and getting sick and not be stressed. You can’t be worried about money and not be stressed. I guess you can also worry about what feels like everyone who ever lived in the White House taking home classified documents, but I draw the line at that one. I have other things to be stressed about.
But when you’re stressed and you’re lonely it’s a deadly combo. And more people than ever are feeling that way.
Since 1938, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has been investigating what makes people flourish. After starting with 724 participants—boys from disadvantaged and troubled families in Boston, and Harvard undergraduates—the study incorporated the spouses of the original men and, more recently, more than 1,300 descendants of the initial group. Researchers periodically interview participants, ask them to fill out questionnaires, and collect information about their physical health. As the study’s director (Bob) and associate director (Marc), we’ve been able to watch participants fall in and out of relationships, find success and failure at their jobs, become mothers and fathers. It’s the longest in-depth longitudinal study on human life ever done, and it’s brought us to a simple and profound conclusion: Good relationships lead to health and happiness. The trick is that those relationships must be nurtured.
I am a bit cryptic these days. My adorable cousin Jennifer just told me as much. But, she didn’t have to, I am fully aware. But for the time being I have no choice.
I have also become aware of who my real friends are. I have learned I don’t have tons. But the ones I have are truly my friends. And they know who they are. And so do I. And I really know the ones who have disappeared.
The first thing to do if you are stressed and feeling somewhat isolated is reach out to a friend. Don’t wait for people to reach out to you. I have learned this the hard way. And if they don’t meet you halfway or respond to your overture then you have learned they are not really your friend.
And most importantly – CALL. Don’t text. Don’t DM them on Instagram – pick up the phone and call.
When did we get to the place where we had to ask people if it was OK to call? Have you noticed this? Do you do this? Text someone – “is it OK if I call you sometime before the next lunar eclipse?”
A phone call is not a dinner party. You don’t need to plan it in advance. If someone’s phone rings and they can’t answer it or are busy, they won’t answer. And you can do what we’ve done since the answering machine was invented, you leave a message.
I feel like most of the people who read this are old enough to remember the answering service. When the worst words in the English language were, “no calls.” HE DIDN’T CALL. Now that was stressful.
But reach out and call someone and make a date, even if just for coffee.
Nothing beats talking with a friend face to face. Of course, we all need me time, God knows when that phrase came into being. Me time. But we time is a good thing too. A very good thing. In fact, an essential thing.
Last night we had dinner with our good friends Linda and Randy. And we all just sat and talked. And we didn’t talk gibberish. Gibberish is real estate prices, good hotels, or worse – wine.
We talked about hard things, some sad things, personal things, and we were all very open and honest. We walked out of their house feeling better about the world and less lonely and that is what friends are for and why we need face to face time and not Facebook.
So, pick up your phone and don’t go and doom scroll and see who is pretending to have a better life than you, use that phone to call someone and connect.
The other thing I’ve been doing a lot of is reading. Not reading on my phone. Not reading people’s postings on my phone. Reading books. I made a vow at the beginning of the year to read a book a week. I am one book behind. But every night we all read before bed.
The written word has always been one of man’s best friends and I fear we are losing that along with so much else.
How many people do you know who say, “I just don’t read anymore. I can’t concentrate.” Maybe you say it.
I got to that place. The place from reading book after book to maybe one every six weeks or sometimes longer. I was spending so much time on the computer and phone I dropped books. I couldn’t concentrate for more than a few minutes.
I must tell you coming back to books has been one of the highlights of the last six months.
And you can concentrate. Maybe not right off the bat. Concentration is like a muscle. You need to use it to strengthen it. But once you get back in the habit of reading, it is like the proverbial bike, you just pick it right back up.
And while I used to laugh at them, I am kind of longing for a book club. It’s a way of meeting people and seeing friends and being held accountable to reading.
My daughter discovered a great APP. I know this kind of goes against the grain of what I am preaching, read a book, use an APP. But the APP makes you accountable for pages and keeps track of your progress. So, if you are self-competitive, you will read 20 pages if you say you will.
It’s called The StoryGraph and I like it much better than Goodreads. Check it out. And friend me on there. We can compare books.
If you’re not reading or meeting with a friend, listening to uplifting Podcasts is a better way to spend the time than more bad news. I was addicted to The Daily, which is a very good podcast. But it regurgitates the same unhappy making news I already know too well.
I know how many Ukrainians are dying and being displaced. Not listening to it all the time does not mean I still won’t do what I can to alleviate their suffering. But I don’t have to make my information breakfast, lunch and dinner out of all the world’s problems.
I also follow two newsletters that are very inspiring. One is called Be More with Less.
And the other is Colin Bevan. Neither one litters your inbox. One email a week. Colin sometimes less. But I always walk away with something I can use to make my days better.
This is something from Colin Bevan I wrote down in my daily TO DO journal this week.
- For a few moments, actively imagine your best possible future life. Think of all the areas of life from career to family to health to hobbies, etc. Think of the best outcomes in these areas in your best possible future.
- Now write about this for 15 minutes, being as specific as possible. Where would you be? Who would you be with? What tasks would you be performing, etc?
- Don’t give into temptations to consider past failures in these areas. Just envision a bright future where circumstances change just enough to allow it to happen.
- Repeat the exercise every few days for a while.
- Extra credit: If you hope to have a meaningful impact on our world, include in your vision for the sort of impact you will have.
And from Be More with Less this week, she gave a fantastic link to something to do to get yourself out of yourself and to help others. It’s called Letters Against Isolation. It’s easy and takes no time and it makes you feel so much better about your world, and you help those who are truly isolated.
Check it out. I was feeling a bit down the other day, I spent two hours writing to senior citizens, whom I don’t know, but who will get the cards I wrote delivered with their meals. And they will hopefully feel a little less alone. And in doing that you will feel a little less alone and hopefully more grateful. I plan on sending ten a week.
I think the ideal thing would be – call a friend, meet up for a coffee and some decadent sweet treat. Discuss what is bugging you and what you are reading. Then go buy or make some pretty cards and sit down together and write some notes to isolated seniors.
FYI – seniors are considered anyone over sixty, so I am in that group!!! Write to me. No, call me. No. Not if you’re on my shit list. But it you’re not, you will know it as I will answer the phone when I see your name!