The late Hans Seyle postulated that there were two categories of stress, the “good” and the “bad” kind.
If you’re stuck in traffic and late for an important meeting where you’re supposed to present your company’s proposals that could possibly earn it a lot of money, and you’ve just discovered that you’re cellphone battery is dead and that you can’t possibly alert anyone that you’re going to be late, believe me, you’re in the process of experiencing the “bad stress” variety.
But without the pressure of “good” stress, life can be without meaning. At Decarie Square where I work, I see a couple of older men without “good” stress, in order to fulfill a human need to be useful, to be challenged; to enjoy a daily routine at a job where they’re expected to be every day, where they can do purposeful work – and it’s obvious that they are on the losing side of life.
One man rents out time on a computer at small computer store or wanders around the mall; another sits reflectively with a coffee in front of him with a sad, aimless look on his face.
I often worry, with my own retirement possibly around the corner, that I, too, will miss out on the positive stress that this job provides – a place to go every morning, to routinely perform some tasks that I am quite good at doing; or to get involved in a creative design project once in a while where I can put my graphic design skills of twenty years ago to use, to be appreciated. While I do live in paradise, at least on the weekends, I am concerned that I will wake up one day, and on many, many days, with no fixed plans and things to look forward to – an open day. The possible lack of “good stress” might reduce some of the meaning in my life that I now enjoy.
I see myself possibly volunteering somewhere. Then there will be contract bridge on Wednesday afternoons that I’ll pick up again. Perhaps get a dog? It certainly will be a challenge to forge a new life for myself.
I got to thinking all of the above while noticing a subtle change in myself this morning: I hardly look at my watch anymore.
Regularly checking out the time was a natural part of my life, whether it be on a weekend or during the week.
In the morning, I no longer rush to a job where getting there exactly on time is a priority. Yesterday morning, on the way to the dentist (I can now say with 100% certainty that I no longer have all my teeth) I got stuck in almost unmovable traffic at the Champlain Bridge. It was 7:15 am and my appointment was for 8 am. Plenty of time to get there, even at a crawl. Naturally, I glanced at my car’s clock from time to time and never reached the panic state that might have resulted had it been 7:45 am.
When someone calls at the office, I will glance at the computer’s clock to see if I should say, “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”.
During lunch, I try to enjoy my full hour off so I will glance at my watch at the beginning of my lunch hour and again when I get near its end. Gotta read my book to the very last minute, you know…
There’s the above, and when I head home at the end of the day. But I can say that that I am not a compulsive watch-watcher any more.
It’s a minor freedom gained.
The mental constraints that an addiction to Time can put on one’s attention is, in my opinion, a good example of “bad stress”.