To de-stress your own life: a catch-22?

The United Nations has declared ‘it’ to be a global epidemic. The WHO regards ‘it’ as the most challenging health problem of our time. Here in The Netherlands ‘it’ is the number one work related health problem. If you would ask nowadays in a street survey what ‘it’ stands for, how many people would guess the first time that it stands for ‘chronic stress’? Whether or not leading to ‘burn-out’, which you could call the final stage.


My guess is not too many. The reason will probably be that most people are already so used to it that they don’t consider it a serious issue anymore, more an already accepted fact of present-day life. “How did it come so far?” was the first question that popped up in my mind when I read these facts. A question I really would like to research further because in my opinion it represents one of the great absurdities of our time. However, I will leave this answer to the experts, I’ve my own job to do.

As a massage therapist I also have to deal with the fact that – as a rough estimate – about eight out of ten of my clients are experiencing an excessive level of stress on a regular basis. And I’m talking here not only about the clients who visit my practice, but also the clients I meet in my freelance activities.

Because ‘chronic stress’ is nowadays also responsible for a lot of other health problems of which burn-out is the best known one, I came up with this solution. Or rather, I’ve pinpointed what I’m actually already doing for some years now: to work first and foremost on this root cause. Something which happens to be also one of the basic tenets of traditional Chinese medicine which I practice. That is not only treating the symptoms, but also the causes.

As such I’ve recently introduced a ‘de-stress treatment’. A treatment that’s focused on your personal bodily needs but will also include the key question: what are you going to do about it yourself? Or, to put it differently: how are you going to de-stress your own life? In most cases ‘to prioritize’ might very likely be one of the solutions.

Most people tend to think that ‘chronic stress’ is work related or has to do with societal factors as for example the information overload we can experience nowadays. But most people happen to have a blind spot here: the general lifestyle demands they have set for themselves. And this can also apply to the ones which in general are considered ‘healthy’.

Just lately I visited by chance a yoga class somewhere here in Amsterdam. What I saw was in a way astounding. Not only resembled the start of the class some kind of rush hour, but the classroom itself was so packed that most people didn’t have enough space to do their exercises properly. Because of this the room was also too hot which meant that most of them were sweaty and overheated, and I can assure you, this was no Bikram yoga. Finally you have decided in your busy weekly schedule to include some real relaxation and then what happens? This isn’t of course a common thing, but the example serves its purpose here. The idea behind it can be applied to all the demands we set ourselves. Do they really serve their purpose considering the circumstances?

Fortunately enough this isn’t a catch-22 situation, at least not for most people in this part of the world. It only asks to seriously prioritize your goals. Something which can be brought back to the question: which matters are really important for you to lead a more fulfilling and balanced life? Or, to quote one of my favourites of Lao Tzu: “Countless words count less than the silent balance between yin and yang.” This said, what else can I do now then rest my case?

PS for the ones who don’t know how chronic stress can seriously affect your body & mind:

© Wouter Groen (4-7-2017; unpublished)