Exhausted. Stressed. Weary. Worn out. Fed up. These words are used by an increasing number of people to describe how they feel. And in particular, these words, and worse, are used by more and more Americans to describe their daily existence. So what’s the problem?
We’ll cut right to the chase — the United States, despite all of its blessings and bounty, is a very manic country. There, I said it. I’m a child of immigrants and when I speak to relatives back in my parent’s “old country,” they’re much less stressed. Life for them is a bit more grounded and less frenzied. Sure, they work hard, but they also know that life is supposed to be about actually living it with joy, and not watching it pass you by. Here in the U.S., we seem to be on an out-of-control hamster wheel and we just keep running and running, but rarely do we actually get anywhere these days.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love America. But like so many of my fellow Americans, I feel that something has gone off kilter. Whichever word you prefer to use to describe our weariness, the truth is, that feeling is quickly becoming our new normal. We need to change that.
A Frenetic Existence
I’m not sure why life in America is so frenetic, but I do know it wasn’t always this way. In the last 20 or so years, we seem to be charging full steam ahead, but with no set course or destination. This manic life we lead is our own doing — it’s a lot of noise, clutter and distraction in our lives. I want to share just one example of what I mean:
I live in an HOA — meaning we have a master Homeowner Association that administers our property (note I didn’t say “governs.”). Their job is supposed to be to source and manage vendors to maintain our individual and shared property. Lately, a lot of homeowners have noticed that the landscape company we use is here more frequently — in fact, it’s gone from two days per week, to them being here five days a week. What are they doing? There is no good reason for them to be here so often. Now daily, homeowners are subjected to the incessant whirring and sputtering of their machines and voices — loud, invasive…annoying. Our once quiet life has been interrupted by a unceasing frenzy of activity. Does our property look better? No. Are people happier with all this cutting, trimming, grooming and mowing? No. So why is it happening? All this increased noise and senseless activity has done little more than make life more stressful.
Okay, so you may be asking what landscaping in my HOA has to do with the point. The truth is, there’s no reason for all this work being done and the only people who seem to be benefiting, are the owners of the landscape company — the rest of us have to endure the shattering of our peace and quiet. It’s one example of many, of the purposeless noise and frenzy which has infected the land from the top, all the way down.
We’re all worn out because we’re unable to relax and enjoy life. If we’re not working, then we’re constantly running around doing some form of nonsensical busy work, as if sitting still were a crime (wonder if it will be one day?). We’ve become hard-wired to always be doing, always going, moving, changing, building, tearing down, cutting down, trimming, running, go, go, go……. but to where? Is life any better for all this mania? No, because we see documented evidence that in fact, quality of life is worse.
If you don’t see this happening, take time to really look at the problem — slow your pace and observe what you see and hear around you in your everyday life.
“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace.” — Joan Borysenko
We’re Breeding Burnt Out Kids
If we take all this frenzy and we throw in the additional noise and chaos of the web, we have the makings of a perfect storm. I of course speak of social media!
A recent article highlights the problem well:
Yes, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can wear you out, says Dr. Patricia Bratt, a therapist and psychoanalyst with offices in Livingston and New York City.
“Social media can run the gamut from being fabulously uplifting to being totally depressing and exhausting, and this applies to all ages,” says Bratt.
Bratt, who works with young adults who check their social media constantly — at all hours of the day and night — and they all complain about being tired, adds:
“It impacts their sense of themselves and their identities and makes them anxious. Social media has created a new sense of impulsivity and urgency, it can make them feel overwhelmed by what is happening in the world, and all of these factors can be fatiguing and can impact how they sleep.” — Why we’re exhausted: Stress and social media are taking their toll.
Kids today are being born and raised in a culture of mania. From the political rhetoric, to the noises of frenzied activity and the clutter of the web, childhood is no longer filled with innocent play and laughter. Today, kids are exposed to mania, because they see people, including their parents, running around in a state of constant agitation — a perpetual state of noise. It is this meaningless flurry of turmoil that is causing the mass burnout that now moves across the world.
What Can We Do?
For starters, people need to speak up more. Talk among your friends and everyone will agree that our priorities are out of whack, but few are willing to say so publicly. Let’s start by openly addressing the growing crisis — because in reality, a crisis is exactly what this problem has become. The solution starts with each of us and our individual objective should be to do our part in retuning the world to a more balanced state of being — one in which our life force isn’t being drained by needless noise and chaos.
Some ways we can do this:
1. Stop, look and listen
We can’t pretend this isn’t happening, because even the medical and scientific community is calling attention to this growing problem. Start by looking at your own life and the world immediately around you — your home, town, etc. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you notice? It can be anything from the never-ending road work downtown, to the constant noise and annoyance of landscaping that never seems to be finished. It can be you and an incessant need to always be running errands. And, it can be your whole family consumed with watching TV, playing video games or surfing the web. The point is to notice what’s happening and to recognize the good kind of busy, from the pointless frenzy and mania that’s doing little more than beating us down.
More of our life is now spent plugged in. Why? Do we really need to talk on our cell phones when we’re grocery shopping? Do you absolutely have to be texting with your friend when you’re having dinner? Is there really something on the net that’s more important than reading a good book? If life is making us tired, then we’re making life the cause of that. Ironic that in reality, we’re exhausted and burnt out, because we keep jumping back on that hamster wheel. Consider some self-reflection to see how you and your family are creating the very noise you want to escape.
3. Seek out quiet time
Find something that helps you to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. We probably can’t change the chaos of modern life all at once or all by ourselves, but we can escape from it by finding quiet time to actually enjoy life. A walk in the woods? Maybe a long hot bath? Whatever works for you, make sure to do things that are quiet and therapeutic for your mental and physical health.
4. Tune out the external clutter
Some defeatist might think that the “noise and chaos” is here to stay. I disagree. I believe that as more of us realize what’s happening, more of us will seek to change things. This requires that we speak up about it and that we reject it by tuning it out and refocusing our lives back to the way it was in simpler times — times in which people were far happier.
“A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live.” — Bertrand Russell