Gross Psychic Weight

You may have noticed that commercial trucks often have weights listed on the cab of the truck that indicate how much weight the vehicle can safely bear. Those numbers are there to help eliminate the safety risks inherent in driving an overloaded vehicle. They smartcarfailalways remind me of the day we put an old refrigerator out on the street for pickup by the city. Early the next morning, I was surprised to see that refrigerator strapped to the top of an old Honda that was slowly driving down the street with its undercarriage about six inches off the pavement!

While hopefully most of us wouldn’t overload our cars and put our own safety at risk, many of us do gleefully overload our psyche with stress producing schedules, experiences, and activities. We can self-schedule ourselves into a busyness that is literally bad for our health in the same way that strapping a refrigerator to our backs would be. In fact, it’s easier to overload on psychic stress because it is most often invisible until at last our mental “suspension” gives out. Then we can find ourselves immobilized, unable to get out of bed in the morning because we cannot even begin to imagine facing our day. Should you find yourself feeling that way, it’s time to get help. It would be better to get help before we findtired ourselves in that condition!

If you feel your mood or your energy flagging, it would be good to look at your activity level. What can you reduce or eliminate to give yourself time to recover in the same way than an athlete recovers from running a marathon? We can easily find ourselves in a place where we don’t believe we can say “no” to the next request. This can be especially difficult at work, but your health and happiness both depend on your ability to set boundaries. I know someone who worked in a large company here in Milwaukee that routinely expected members of his department to put in eight or more hours of overtime and then report the next day at their usual starting time to do it all over again. The company was mystified when errors increased, productivity decreased, and eventually massive turnover occurred!

We all have our limits, and we all would do well to learn what they are and respect them. It may seem like a good idea to stress ourselves to the breaking point or to have a lot of extra money on our next paycheck, but sooner or later our bodies and our minds will demand we pay the price for abusing them.

What Really Matters

Westerners are bombarded with information every minute of every day. Much of it goes by and isn’t absorbed, much of it is taken in and stored for later, some of it is immediately processed and used, but taken in total it is more than we can use and is a significant cause of stress. What can we do about it?

overcome-information-overloadThe easiest intervention is to simply turn it off. Do you listen to the radio during your commute? Try silence, or if you can’t tolerate the silence try listening to recorded music without commercials – but work toward silence, because even music is information. Are you in the habit of having the television or radio running in the background when you are at home, even if you think you aren’t paying attention to it? The truth is that you are paying attention to it, even if you think you are doing something else. The more we move toward doing one thing at a time and eliminating background noise, the better off we will be.

At first, you may feel a bit uncomfortable with the reduced stimulation. That is only because you are unaccustomed to it. In fact, our central nervous systems are operating on overload. While it’s true that reducing unnecessary stimulation will make us more efficient, the most important reason to work toward it is that it will positively impact our health and our relationships.