How “Free” is Your Free Time ?
Humans are social beings and are constently under stress. The role of relationships is ambiguous. While maintaining healthy relationships with other humans is mandatory for our physical and mental well-being, it often is a very daunting task. But while the relationships with other human beings are essential for our well-being, they can also suck out the energy of you.
Today, humans are the greatest cause for stress as well as the solution to it.
It starts early in the morning, stuck in a traffic jam, inside a packed subway or standing at the end of a long line at the bakery. You are physically close, constantly faced with their gazes, noise and sometimes smells. Standing next to 50 strangers in a metal box which moves close to 80km/h under the earth is not exactly relaxing.
When finally at work, you have to handle bosses, colleagues, and customers. No matter how you feel, everyone expects to show up your best and play your assigned role.
Back at home, the situation is not so different. Our partners, family members, and friends are usually better emotional companions than the people at work, however, they also expect certain behaviors from us. You can’t come home and be yourself. You need to be a husband, wife, mother, father, brother, best friend.
Relationships mean effort and tension. Especially in a time where we constantly need to keep to schedules and are only able to regularly see our beloved ones when we make appointments with them at least one week in advance.
You could say that humans are a great cause for stress. But surprisingly, they are also the solution to it. Closeness creates stress – especially when it’s lacking. Working singles often experience totally different stressors because of loneliness and isolation.
Even when relationships may seem to increase the pressure on your shoulders, they actually strengthen your ability to cope with the challenges in your life. If work becomes your only focus, you’re in danger of losing social support, making you more vulnerable to the negative effects of stress.
A vivid example is the following: After moving to a new city for a job, people usually start working more. Without a social network they start feeling lonely and as an answer to this unpleasant feeling, they begin diving themselves into work. The beginning of a vicious cycle.
This situation changes if you start a family. Parent’s schedules are crammed with to-dos such as bringing their kids to kindergarten, helping them with homework or start organizing their hobbies.
Those activities alone can fill up a schedule, but parents also need to take care of the housekeeping, their careers and their own aspirations in life. Home and family becomes less of a refuge and more of another responsibility sucking out energy.
The relationship between stress and human interactions is treacherous because it seems paradoxical on the surface. In order to fight stress, you need more stress. Of course, the deeper you think about, the less paradoxical it gets. Free time spent with people you love never create the same stress as time spent at work.
Fulfilling your families desire and needs can feel like a daunting task, but you should ask yourself: What really matters in your life? Is it your career? The appreciation of your boss? Delivering on deadlines?
Or is it your family? Of course, maintaining relationships requires time and effort. But so does everything else that is important in life. Reducing stress does not mean to get rid of things that require effort. It means finding what matters to you the most and managing your energy accordingly.
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