Thursday 19 September 2019

Kufungisisa and the art of stress management

I don't last more than three breaths meditating before a thought arrives
I don't last more than three breaths meditating before a thought arrives
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I've decided that I need to manage my stress. Not that I am feeling especially stressed out, but you know, I'm not getting any younger, and they say stress is the big killer, so I thought I should address it.

I'll admit I probably amn't the most relaxed person in the world. But in fairness I'm pretty busy. And I know it's not exactly open heart surgery I do, but still, there are a lot of deadlines, and these days, in this game, you can be finished in two minutes with one slip of the tongue.

So obviously the easiest thing to do to lower my stress levels would be to give up work. But that's not really a goer. I could just try to take a more relaxed attitude to work. But that would make me more stressed out because I wouldn't be able to relax about that, if you get my drift. I can only really relax if I get myself worked up and over-prepare for things.

So I tried to take it down a level and thought about what small steps I could take to ease stress. Everyone is going mad on the meditation now. And I believe them. I still talk about the year I learnt Transcendental Meditation. I practised it religiously, or whatever the word is, for that year, and I have to admit I breezed through that year. So why didn't I keep it up then, you ask? Who knows? The Maharishi would probably say that we are not rational beings, are we?

So I've been trying a bit of closing the eyes and breathing. It is, in many ways, quite like trying to go to sleep.

I have to say I find it hard. I know you're just supposed to let the thoughts in and let them float off, but I can't help getting involved with them. I go off on tangents with them for 10 minutes. Then something reminds me I'm supposed to be meditating, so I come back to focusing on the breath. But I swear I don't last more than two or three breaths before another thought comes in. I'm clearly suffering from the Zimbabwean version of depression, anxiety or stress, which is known as Kufungisisa, which translates as "thinking too much".

I'm trying to be grateful as well. I swim along being thankful for the lovely day, for the use of my limbs and for my amazing good luck. But I get distracted from that too, into thinking about things that are annoying me, which I enjoy more to be honest.

It did strike me that one thing that could be causing me stress is the ever accelerating news cycle. Keeping up with everything is a full-time job these days. Even when I'm walking in to work in the morning, or kicking back in the evening, I feel I should be watching the news or listening to the radio to get more angles on things. And of course in the olden days, when you missed something on the radio you just missed it. But now we have podcasts, so I can go to sleep at night listening to Sean O'Rourke, and get the lunchtime news at teatime. You don't even have an excuse these days for missing a programme that's on while you are listening to another one, because you can listen to the one you missed afterwards. That could technically mean you could feel the need to listen to more hours of talk radio than there are actual hours in the day. It's never ending.

And it's not as if you ever have the papers read either. They keep updating them online so you're never actually finished reading them. You catch up with them last thing at night and then there's a whole new load of them in lovely print the next morning...

So I have a new resolution. I'm going to listen to music more. When I'm walking along, when I'm sitting around at home, some of the times when I would otherwise be chasing more news, I'm going to switch off. And let's see if I relax a bit. And let's see if I miss anything.

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