Better to bend than break
The fourth installment in our investing in health series. We previously talked about diet, exercise, and sleep.
Stress, (and its cousin, mental illness) has a wide variety of causes. Some of the time you can make improvements to your physical situation (diet, exercise, and sleep) and thus make things better. If in doubt, try this first.
I used to go running when I felt down as a teenager. At the time it seemed to help a lot.
Then there is relationships. Keeping in touch with people and being around supportive friends is even more important when you are living in a foreign culture. Fortunately the internet has made it much easier to keep in touch, albeit with the risk of replacing in-person relationships with online ones.
Being deliberate with who you spend time with is really important. Some people make your life better, some are neutral, and some make it worse. I recommend cutting ties with the latter, and seeking out the former.
Another factor is autonomy and control. Do you get to choose what you work on, when you work, who you work with, when to take time off, what you do in your free time? if not, can you make any changes to increase the amount of control in your life?
For me, I am happy to work all day on something I decided to do, but things I am assigned seldom hold my interest in the same way.
Do you have a commute? Is it unpleasant? Can you move closer to work, or find a way of improving it?
I used to take the train to work, but I hate being crammed in with lots of other people. Then I started cycling in along a busy main road. Finally I found a route along a river and through parks. I would say my commute is about 10% as unpleasant as it used to be, and I'm getting exercise to boot.
Finally, you can change your attitude. In many ways we determine our reality. Viktor Frankl's book describes how he could find joy while imprisoned in a death camp.
Stoic philosophy seems to be popular with personal finance enthusiasts. The stoics focus on things they can control, ie their thoughts and actions, and try not to worry about other developments. It can be a very powerful frame of mind.
Unfortunately it can be quite difficult to find professional help in Japan if you need counselling or medical support but there is information available online. Often groups or practitioners overseas are able to help and can also be an option.
And this is the end of our series investing in health. Personally although I need to work on my diet, exercise, sleep, recently I have been putting a lot of thought into my mental health. Taking control of my work and time, choosing who to spend time with, changing my physical environment, all seem to yield huge benefits.
How about you? Any tips to reduce stress?