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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Was There Really Less Stress?

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Stress is a huge word nowadays. We all talk about it, we get diagnosed for it, we take medication for it, and I can't really recall even hearing the word until after the 1980s.

People believe that our ancestors had no stress. Life was easier. I'm not sure that was the case.

Our relatives in the 18th century were plagued by disease that wiped out entire families, possible Indian attack in their home, imprisonment for having debt (how many of us have debt?), forced slavery, and the beating of women was permitted. It didn't occur "somewhere else." And there was war. 

In the United States, the 19th century brought more war and it didn't stay "somewhere else." It was fought on the plains, in today's midwest and much of it in the South. How many of us have lived through war in our backyard? I'm not talking about arguments; I'm talking about a gun-in-your-face war. Walk through any old cemetery and discover numerous children in the same family who passed away within a few days. How many years did it take to bear them only to have them gone within hours? How did their parents feel? Disease still existed. And if the crops were not good that year, you didn't eat well, if at all.

Even in the early 1900s, there was a day that my great-grandmother stood burying her first born child while five months pregnant with my grandmother. She was a young woman with feelings, emotions, and she was burying her 18 month old son. Somehow, we tend to remove the emotions from those in the past as if they felt nothing. Yet, how would we feel in all these instances? Look at your families. What if you had to bury them all tomorrow and then return to the fields the following morning to work? Life had to go on, if you wanted to eat - if you wanted to survive. Yet! They were no different than us.

Growing up, I witnessed a stress reducer so few of us have today. Work. Physical labor. The outdoors. If you wanted to survive, you forced yourself back out into the fields and worked. Those who did not, fell by the wayside and despair. They allowed the stress to win. Outside in the elements, people were forced to live and deal with their thoughts - to work it out within themselves while performing a job. And no matter how they felt at the end of the day, they had still accomplished something. In the evening, they went to bed early. Early to bed, early to rise...the start of a new day.

Today, we tell each other we must sit, relax, do nothing, meditate, medicate, "let it go", while many things around us crumble apart. And as we watch our world around us go by the wayside, we build up more stress because our surroundings are in disrepair.

We don't all have farm work nowadays, but many of us have yards. We have the outdoors and homes. If we choose, we can keep busy in them. We can make them a priority during these times, creating something better. We can create within our homes if we can not enjoy the outdoors.

Stress - it's always been here. No perfect cure, no perfect answer. But how we constructively deal with it, is up to us.

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