How stressed are you?

How stressed are you?

Last year I compared two orchestras – both top orchestras, both in the first league. One has been established for hundreds of years. The other is newer – by orchestra standards very young. Both play brilliantly. The younger one is alert to the point of being anxious. Eyes riveted on the conductor so that they can come in exactly when he indicates, they give the impression of a line-up of racehorses ready for the starter’ signal. No question, they play brilliantly but a little stressfully.

The older orchestra are, in fact, better. I tried to work out why. The answer is that they are more confident, more relaxed. Sure, they pay attention to the conductor but they really listen to the other players, too. They are ready but not anxious. They are a whole part of the music where the younger orchestra is more like a group of instrumentalists working together. The difference may be subtle but it is significant. You get a sense of cooperation that is hard to find in today’s world.

Another thing I have noticed in my life is what I call the “confidence of wealth”. Some rich people – often those who have only recently acquired wealth – are nervous about the endless predators hanging around them trying to curry favour in the hope of attaching some of those riches to themselves. It is understandable. The rich seldom know if they are liked, even loved, for themselves or for their money. It is why the very rich often marry other very rich people. They want to be sure that they are worth loving, wealthy or not.

The old established rich are used to these problems. They have lived with them for many generations. They are generally relaxed. They know that the avaricious will reveal themselves for what they are. The genuine will always remain friends. The confidence of wealth comes when you are used to handling it. I know one family who have had very rough times in their lives, often having to deal with multiple court cases at great expense. For all that they have kept a style, a confidence that few people have. It is admirable.

We are all stressed today. The pace of change is overwhelming us. As life gets better its prospect looks worse – a real paradox there. I have five suggestions for reducing stress.

Confront the issues that are stressing you. Set them out mentally or, even better, in writing. Jot down the dangers and where they could leave you. Make a note of who else in the world is likely to be similarly affected. Decide and specify what you can and what you cannot do about them. Decide what to do – and do it. Stop worrying about what you cannot do.

List people whose judgment you trust and who could give you good advice. There may be only a few, no matter. Put your reasons for thinking they can help you. Decide which one of them – only one, please – you will go to and do it. You do not have to take their advice but you must listen to it.

Make a special effort to be close to those you love. Knowing we are valuable to someone is a stress reliever. It has been proved that touch – holding hands, for instance – is a terrific way to calm yourself. Expressions of affection help you to relax. A good hug is worth a thousand words.

Go for a massage if you like. Failing that try meditating for a while. Being pampered and deliberately staying still help you see the world in perspective. Even if what is happening around you is your fault, stop blaming yourself for it. None of us is totally balanced. It would be a very dull world if we were. Being better does not mean being perfect, just a little less irritating to ourselves.

Make an effort to resolve your problems when you can; stop thinking about them when you can’t. Persistent worry upsets the harmony of life and can make you quite ill. Sort something, then leave it alone until it needs re-sorting.

Life is quite hard for many people. It could nearly always be harder. I say that we are all in the same boat. The fact that it is called Titanic shouldn’t put us off enjoying it.

Go arrange a few deckchairs and relax.