The most stressful thing about stress is its lack of clarity
However mad I am feeling in these dark, demented days before Christmas, I keep reminding myself how much worse things could be.
I haven’t (yet) carted myself off to hospital claiming to have been attacked by a stranger with a screwdriver – only to admit later that I made it all up.
That is what has just happened to Ulrich Ruther, chief executive of a regional German insurer. About 10 days ago Provinzial NordWest put out a brief statement to the effect that the boss had been stabbed with a screwdriver outside the company’s HQ. A few days later there was a second announcement. “The attack had not taken place in the way it was presented,” the company said.
It spoke darkly of the damage done to the chief executive’s family by “turbulence” at the company, which has been a possible takeover target.
Mr Ruther wants this “extremely stressful phase” to end, it said.
In wanting the stress to stop he is not alone. That very same day, 3,000 miles away, Arianna Huffington was penning a piece for her followers on LinkedIn about her “Big Idea” for 2013: Less Stress, More Living.
The idea, such as it is, involves a two-step process. The first is to recognise quite how overstressed we are; the second is to take the necessary steps to “course-correct”. Only then will we find our “centred place of harmony and balance” and “reconnect with our own creativity, wisdom and joy”.
Ms Huffington tells us how, during the national conventions this summer, her Huffington Post staff dealt with stress by doing yoga and having massages, and thus reconnected with their wisdom and joy.
Possibly this helped them; yet I can’t see how doing downward-facing dog would have done the trick for Mr Ruther.
Or for me, come to that. In order for me to “course-correct”, I can think of four things that might be of some help, and yoga isn’t one of them. Instead they are: a) for my children to be 10 years older; b) for my dad to be 10 years younger; c) for my brain to work faster; and d) for Uniqlo not to have sold out of the down jacket I wanted to buy for my daughter as a Christmas present.
The most impressive thing about Ms Huffington’s “Big Idea” is how she manages to be both platitudinous and wrong at the same time. Otherwise, even the title – “The year we prioritise beating stress” – brings on the fight-or-flight response in me. As does the very idea of less stress and more living.