I was reminded again the other day about the story of the frog in boiling water. For anyone who doesn’t know it, I’ll repeat it briefly: If a frog jumps into a pot of boiling water, it’s hot, so he jumps straight back out. But if a frog jumps into a pot of cool water which is slowly but steadily heated up, even once the water reaches boiling point, he will not realise and so stays in it. While the first frog will be a bit burnt, he will recover. The second frog will die, without having any idea that the water is killing him.
I’ve always found it a powerful metaphor for stress, and our ability to recognise the level of stress we may be under. Some people see stress and simply side-step it. But not only are there situations where we don’t see this as an option, there are situations where we don’t believe that our level of stress is reaching the point where it seriously endangers our health. I’ve experienced both of these.
I’m a life coach, but could never be one of those high energy, high achiever ones, because I’ve lived with high stress levels for much of my life and experienced burnout as a result. So, while I have a good work ethic and a responsible nature, I know the importance of self-care, and I see the value in a bit of time wasting 🙂 Taking a moment to smile because the sun is shining and doing that British thing of sharing your pleasure in sunshine with your friends, your colleagues, or random people you bump into at the shops. There’s chuckling at that cute e-mail your friend sent you with kittens, or puppies, or laughing babies. There’s that witty meme doing the rounds where some politician you don’t like ends up looking really foolish. There’s chatting to your friend(s) about nothing in particular.
Does doing that type of stuff give you joy? Do you feel pleasure in those moments? Because if you do, how can it be a waste of time? Of course, like all things, there’s a line to tread and a balance to be found. Work needs to be done, the house needs cleaning, the children need to be fed, we need to maintain good health, pay our bills etc… So, if you spend all your time doing time-wasting things then, yes, that is a problem. But if you don’t take the time to – actually or metaphorically – smell the flowers once in a while, then you’d be wasting the opportunity for some of life’s simple pleasures.
We’re all busy, busy, busy. Somehow it feels almost sinful not to be. It’s almost as if we’re afraid of being judged, or of finding we have nothing to do. There’s a great cartoon I’d love to share but for copyright reasons – three constructions workers in hard hats holding up signs, the first says: Stop! The second says: Smell the Flowers! and the last: Resume tearing through your life like a Maniac! 🙂
In the UK, there’s an advertising campaign for KitKats – chocolate covered wafer fingers – where you’re encouraged to “Have a break, have a KitKat!” Oddly enough, KitKats are the chocolate bar I got a taste for when I gave up smoking during my pregnancy. Even though I don’t have a sweet tooth, and my choice of break taking doesn’t involve chocolate, I still look upon KitKats fondly – as much for that memory as for the strapline.
How do you take a break? What do you do to
waste time relieve stress and get some mindless pleasure?
© Debra Carey, 2022