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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Do You Have to be Busy all the Time to Stay Sane?

Dear A.B.

One part confuses me though. Do you always have to remain active (busy) to stay sane? Does that not leave us always on the run? My sister has terrible anxiety and is always running, she is afraid to stop doing. Do tasks save our sanity? R.

Dear R.

Tasks save our sanity when we need our sanity saved. However this needing to save our sanity is just during those times when we are in a stressed state of alarm mode.

In general It is helpful to have a place in life where you feel like you have a home and can relax at times instead of always rushing and doing. It could be taking care of your spouse or your family. Many people make their job a kind of “home” where you have people to interact with, help, share your daily stories. Which is probably why statistics indicate that so many people die within 18 months of retirement. If you are planning to retire, make sure you have some place or craft or activity with others to retire to.

If you don’t have such a place, no problem, you can make one. If you have a job, that’s a good place to start. Instead of seeing your co-workers or customers as just co-workers and customers, you can begin to think of them as fellow creatures on your daily path, who have their flaws and drawbacks and challenges and need to feel connected just as you do. You never know when your friendly greeting or some spontaneous kind word can help someone else feel less alone in the world. Believe me, thinking of others instead of always self-focusing is the best way in the world to free yourself from downer thinking.

One of the ways I feel connected is through my writing. I meet people when I do booksignings and when I answer their questions either in person or via email, it helps to give me purpose in life.

It might take a while to find your “place” if you are starting from scratch. In that case you will find that just talking to clerks in a store or fellow passengers waiting for the bus or subway, and seeing them as the real people they are, can give you a moment of connectedness with the world at large. Then you can graduate from this to maybe joining some neighborhood group to connect with people who have interests similar to yours.

Remember that it’s always easier to see other people’s flaws than it is to see your own. What might be helpful here is to review Kent Keith’s Ten Paradoxical Commandments which is kind of a further extension of the “golden rule.”. It actually gives you a good framework to look newly upon your fellow man with love and compassion and a rich feeling of connectedness instead of fear and judgment ending a sad feeling of alienation.

Here are the first two of the Ten Paradoxical Commandments:  

People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered
Love them anyway.

 If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.


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