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Alexander 30. May 2016

How Free is Our Free Time?

free time stress

Humans are social beings – and increasingly stressed ones. While relationships give us strength, we also need to invest in them. We often forget how important they are, with partners, family and friends reduced to appointments in our calendar. When will we start reconquering what we love?

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. Being physically close to others and their gazes, the noise and the waiting is all it takes to create tension.

When finally at work, we have to handle bosses, colleagues and customers by effortlessly playing our roles while being constantly available. At home, our partner or family members wait for us with their desires and needs.


Working singles often experience totally different stressors because of loneliness and isolation. If work becomes our only focus, we’re in danger of losing the social support in our private lives.

We often need to rebuild our social anchoring when we move to a new city for a job. While an empty apartment can feel lonely, fleeing from that feeling can lead to spending even more time at work – and a vicious cycle begins.

Parents can hardly remember that feeling. Their schedule is crammed with to-dos such as bringing the kids to Kindergarten and helping with homework to organizing their children’s hobbies. And don’t forget housekeeping in the evening. In today’s accelerating world, a home only rarely feels like a refuge.

All these tasks can come at the expense of quality time and conversations with friends or significant others. That’s very unfortunate, because it’s those moments that are among the best cures for stress.


Many people, whether lonely or overworked, face the same problem: They’re lacking the opportunity for quality conversations that go beyond the realm of quick texting. Comfort and support given by people we trust in and care for increases our stress resistance significantly, experiments and studies have shown.

A few supportive remarks, a nice text message or a kiss can work wonders. Scientists have proven that even a simple hug reduces stress. Our biggest stressors in ancient times were wild animals, cold winters and the search for food. Today, humans are the greatest cause for stress as well as the solution to it.


The things we should enjoy – moments with family, social encounters while playing sports or going out – can turn into a burden when there’s not enough time. If we cancel that tennis match too often or always have to rush to make that dinner with friends in time, our quality of life will suffer.

What do these social stressors mean for us? Can we succeed in reconquering happiness in our private lives? This section is trying to give some answers to those questions.