Crisis cycles make life more stressful

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:38 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

The price of gasoline at the pump has many people devising intricate lifestyle changes to save those dollars and cents that seem to be sucked down the drain of the gas tank each time they stop to fill up. I know folks who don’t turn on the car ignition until they have their list in hand of stops to make on the way to work, to the mall, to the gym, to the grocery store or to wherever their business takes them. The bottom line for them is to take care of all errands in one trip a day.

When I think back over the past few years, it’s difficult to remember a time when there wasn’t some kind of immediate social crisis to make life less joyful and make it more stressful. For a few months at the beginning of winter, we had the shortage in flu vaccine to keep people’s nerves on edge. Before that, there was the distressing news about certain drugs that had to be taken off the market because instead of serious complication issues. Lately, of course, there has been the push for people to create living wills and sign advance directives to make their desires known in the event of a life/death crisis. It’s no wonder; a lot of people are on the search for a simpler way of life.

I have always been a great believer in the philosophy that if you want your life to change, you have to be the one to change it. Some individuals waste their entire life waiting for something magic to happen that will cause them to lead a happier life. They hope to meet a person who will provide incentive to adopt a more hopeful attitude, or they hope to be overpowered by a swarm of positive circumstances that will force them out of their dark mood and send them down the path of life with new vigor. Personally, I think if such external events occur, they will only be temporary, and most folks will soon find themselves back where they started.

We’ve all heard the old saying about the grass being greener on the other side of the street, and we know of people who have crossed over only to find things no better than they were on the side left behind. I suppose that it’s a natural part of growing up, to wade through a number of learning experiences before one discovers that it will only be the changes one makes within that ultimately make a difference.

Not everyone, of course, can quit their jobs because they hate them or walk out of their marriages because they are unhappy, but one can and some do find ways of enriching other aspects of life that make jobs or unhappy marriages less of an impact on their mental attitude. It might sound trite, but I have met people all along life’s journey who have found new hobbies or interests, a great way to enhance their lifestyle. Some have found renewed sources of energy through activities such as yoga, meditation, aerobics, guitar, singing lessons or ballroom dancing. I know a woman who claims her life changed after she discovered Japanese gardening. One thing is for certain: People who claim passion as a primary life-changing force are people others find interesting and wonderful with whom to share friendships.

Too often, I think, some individuals abandon their own dreams and ambitions in attempts to satisfy mates, children, relatives, employers or friends. Although most people accept a person who pursues a favorite pastime, such as movies, golf, hunting or fishing, for some reason some folks see personal pursuit of self-enrichment as a threat to relationships rather than an enhancement. A lot of folks embrace the idea of “group-think” as their social ideal, so that anyone who seeks solo experiences is viewed as anti-social. All this, I think, contributes to our inability to ward off the influence of stress in our society.

The escalation in gasoline prices should lead us to insist on a sensible energy policy. We need to rethink our ideas about the kind of urban planning that requires us to travel long distances to avail ourselves of the necessities of life. We hear lots of talk about walking and bicycling as good forms of exercise, but do we plan these activities into our urban development models? What about alternative forms of energy and mass transit? When do we plan to get serious about them?

One of the things our contemporary lifestyle of instant gratification teaches us is that we can settle on for quick-fix solutions. Once this crisis passes, we shouldn’t think about it again until the next crisis occurs. Consequently, we live in a continuous cycle of crises, with one following rapidly on the heels of another.

Guess what? This, too, will not change until we as a society analyze the situation and take whatever time necessary to draft permanent solutions to recurring issues that keep cropping up like dandelions .

This is why we form governments. There is strength in unity. Civilizations survive because people stand together. When people become divided against themselves, civilizations disappear.

It’s the lesson of the Roman Empire, remember?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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