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Stress and Compassion

Let’s face it, everyone is stressed.  Everyone has less energy to do what is required in their lives.  It doesn’t matter if we are retired or have been working flat our or were furloughed.  We are all stressed.

I don’t suppose our corner of the world has known this much stress since we were engaged in war.  Of course, that stress was different.  There were clear goals, an actual physical enemy.

Yet even then people told me they were not isolated in the same way we are now.  One woman told me she loved her war years.  She was a teenager and enjoyed the freedom of roaming her countryside with friends.  She didn’t lack much and she didn’t live in a place bombs dropped regularly.  Others also lived in places far from the threat of war and only noticed its impact in missing men.  So there was fear and stress, but there were moments of relief, unless a person you loved was engaged in the warfare.

There are parallels—missing people, a clear but invisible enemy— lurking to catch us out like a spy or invading army.  We say we have found a community spirit, but there is also a sense which our neighbours could be our enemies.  They might be the ones who bring the virus into our homes.  On the other hand, when we are out to do our job or normal other daily activities, we might be the one who brings the virus into our homes.  Work and risk for all of us brings stress.

Let’s face, everyone is stressed.  We feel disconnected and isolated.  We don’t do the things we have normally done or see the people we normally see.  We are tired.  It’s hot (today anyway!)

Just as we all grieve differently, we all have different responses to stress.  As I evaluate my stress levels, I wonder whether I can train myself to develop a new response. When someone annoys me, can I take a deep breathe and pause before I say or do anything?  Can I remember that other person thought what they did or said made sense—even if it seems crazy to me?  In my pausing, can I give them, and myself, a break?

Let’s face it, we all need a break from this stress, this virus, this time.  We aren’t going to get that for awhile so we have to do our best to simply get through.  We have to find things to laugh about, and we have to have space to cry a bit.  We have to find ways to connect, whether it’s through an open door or window or talking to a stranger in the shop.  We are all getting on with life the best we can.

Maybe it helps to remember we are not alone in this.  Maybe not, but we have never been on a personal journey that so many others share. I hope the fact we are sharing the burden of stress can help me be more compassionate to my neighbours, my ‘enemies”, and even myself.

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