My dad started off his career in the army. He studied as a civil engineer and went through the rigours of army life. As many current and former defence personnel will tell you, the army lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It’s tough. A key learning that came out of this for my dad was that no matter how much you are struggling, look around you. There will always be someone next to you who is also doing it tough.
This was a lesson he instilled in me from a very young age. When we would be camping and the heavens opened up with torrential rain soaking our sleeping bags, he would say ‘Michelle, I know you’re uncomfortable but so is your sister. Be there for each other’. In every group situation, I can always hear him say ‘if you are hurting, then so are your team mates. Focus on them and encourage them to push through’.
This is a huge life lesson for me and something that I feel is so pertinent to today’s society. How many of us are guilty of thoughts about how hard life is or how they don’t have enough? While every situation is unique and one’s suffering cannot be any greater or smaller than another’s, it can do some good to help others when we ourselves feel helpless.
By shifting the focus off ourselves and our own concerns, we immediately take away surface level stress. The problem will still be there but the intensity of worry we feel reduces by not paying it any attention. For instance, all the stress we feel about paying the next bill flies out the window when our friend comes to us with a personal dilemma. We stop the ‘not enough money’ thoughts and thus the stress.
The internal gratification we feel when helping someone also helps to reduce our stress. After hearing how grateful a friend may be for the shoulder to cry on, we reflect on what we were originally stressing about (the unpaid bill) and for some reason, it doesn’t seem so bad any more. This is because the love we feel when we help another person changes our state of mind into one of looking for solutions rather than looking at the problems.
So for an instant stress reductor – help someone out. Lend an ear, lend a hand, look out for another person. Who knows what they are going through but you know how you can help them.
I’d love to hear how you plan to help someone this week or how you may have already helped someone. Did it relieve any stress? Or did it make you more stressed out? Please share your comments below or on my facebook page