Friday, 29 October 2010


I don't suffer from stress, but I meet lots of people who do. I think it's a result of being in any kind of official capacity, because those people always seem extremely stressed whenever I meet them. Being stringently antismoking seems to cause a lot of it too. Someone should do a study.

Anyway, I happened across an article on stress which gives advice on what to do about it. It is unfortunate, I think, that the coping strategies described have the acronym STRESS in capital letters. I don't think that's going to help.

Here are the strategies:

Share your worries, swallow your pride, and admit and talk to someone about your worries (It's good to talk). A problem shared is a problem halved!

I've always been of the opinion that a problem shared is a problem doubled. Problems are better solved, circumvented or ignored. If it can be fixed, fix it. If it can't be fixed, don't worry about it. Incorporate it into a new way of life and then it's not a problem. It might not work for everyone but it works for me.

Take stock of your life. Are you living the life you really want to live? Remember, this is the only chance you've got! it's not a dress rehearsal! Do want you want to do. It's your life!

Good advice. If only it was easy to follow. I'm doing a job I love doing and earning money at it. I won't be patronising Mr. Ferrari's shops any time soon but I earn enough to live and to buy decent whisky. I don't actually want any more than that. Yachts? Private jets? No thanks. Someone once posed the question; 'If you won the lottery, what car would you buy?' My answer was 'If I won the lottery I wouldn't have to go anywhere, now would I?' I could even have the whisky delivered. Decadent or what? Honestly, if you gave me ten million quid, I couldn't spend it all before I died. I'd probably die sooner but there'd be a really big smile on my face. Cremation could be risky too. I'd be hyper-flammable.

I was lucky. Paid off with a good redundancy package, which was the only time I have ever paid higher rate tax, too old to be bothered with moving around the country for another job and too old for most places to employ anyway. I had been thinking about being a rogue scientist for a long time but couldn't amass the startup money. So now I had the money and no job. It was the kick up the backside I needed to make me do what I really wanted to do and I had the finances too.

Few are so lucky. It's all very well saying 'You want to be a playwright/actor/astronaut? Go and do that'. It's not easy to leave a paying job, even if it's crap, and take the chance of ending up penniless. So yes, it's great to spend your life doing what you want. In my case it's being Victor Frankenstein - and being paid for it - in a rented lab, but without the hunchbacked assistant and the table that rises to the ceiling in storms. If I can get those, I will. Most cannot do what they want because the government and local councils keep taking the money they are trying to collect to realise their dream.

You have to be in a place where you have no other options before you can take the hard option, and nobody is going to that place voluntarily. If I had not been made redundant I would still be working on what I was told to work on rather than what interests me. Sure, I'd have had a non-variable income but honestly, it wasn't anywhere near as much fun. But I was lucky. Millions are not. If everyone could do what they wanted to do, it would be a wonderful and far more relaxed and less violent world but we don't have a political party offering that option. All they want is our money. So you won't get de-stressed by giving up the day job unless you either have no option or you win the lottery. Good advice, but not very practical.

Relax. Get a hobby. Haven't you always fancied doing this or that? Well, do it! A hobby can be totally absorbing and therefore rewarding and relaxing!

Hobbies are good but most require time and money. There are cheap ones but if your tastes lie in things like railway modelling on garden scales, you're going to be shelling out huge amounts. Unless you're inventive. I have an 'O' gauge engine that's solar powered, it was intended for the garden but I couldn't work out how to pass the path in the middle. It runs whenever the sun shines. My neighbour suggested a tunnel under the path. I looked at him in silence because what I was thinking would have made the Devil blush. The clean version - It's solar powered, idiot.

It's a good suggestion all the same. Hobbies take your mind off work. I build models although there hasn't been time in the last three months. Hopefully I'll finish those Daleks now the work has calmed down. I also modify standard models for a laugh. I still take delight in showing off that 1:24 firetruck that I converted from left to right hand drive and, if you look through the back window, you can see the markings on the gear stick. Yes, I go way over the top but that's the fun of it. Building what it says on the box isn't a hobby. It's following orders and that's what most people do all day anyway, and what causes them to be stressed in the first place.

Exercise. Basically, you should walk at least 30 minutes each day, that's 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back non-stop!

Why? Purposeless exercise doesn't de-stress you. Especially if you feel obliged to do it. Sure, just being outside and wandering aimlessly until you happen across something new can be fun. Some people like to go rambling or hiking and that sounds interesting. They get to see things and visit places. Just going out of your front door until you are 15 minutes away and then coming back doesn't sound like anything more than some State-defined 'unit of exercise'. I have the feeling that a rigid 30-minutes-every-day regime would cause more stress, not alleviate it.

Say no! Do not take on extra work. Tell them you won't do it. Think of you, your health and your family!

Oh, that's a great idea. Try it at your place of work at a time when every company, public and private, is looking to cut down on staff. Then try to sleep at night.

For me, I take on work when it's available. There can be months at a time when it's not. Having no work is not relaxing for me because I'm not on a salary. These days, if I was, having no work would be scary because there are cuts looming and if you're not doing anything you can't be essential.

I would advise not taking this advice. Excessive work can be stressful but no work at all is worse.

Shop at a pet store! You'd be surprised at the amount of medical research which shows that having a cat, dog or pet in the family has reduced stress levels!

Not for me. Cats don't like me. I could live with a dog but couldn't look after it properly. In quiet times I'm here all day. In busy times I'm not. I don't work nine to five, sometimes there's no work and sometimes it's more than twelve hours a day. It wouldn't be fair to even have a budgie. Maybe a bat...

Fish are good. Not tropical ones, they need a lot of care, but there are some fancy goldfish around. All they need is a tank (not a bowl, you can see them better in a flat-sided tank and they have more room) and fish food. Maybe a filter so you don't have to change the water so often but otherwise, easy pets to keep. They don't care if you vanish for a week as long as you leave one of those food blocks in the tank. They are relaxing to watch and need little care. Best of all, they don't ever need to be let out or walked and they will never gouge the stuffing out of your sofa or shit in your bed.

If you feel that you are suffering from stress, see you GP, but do not accept long term tranquilliser prescriptions.

I might go and visit my GP, if I can remember who he is, and tell him I'm stressed about my lack of stress and might therefore be mad, and am in need of some free drugs and does he have any of the really good ones I've heard about? I will tell him how much I smoke and drink and repeat that despite now running two businesses single-handed (the writing stuff has shifted from hobby to business now that I'm in danger of making money at it) I don't feel stressed at all. What's the betting he doesn't make the obvious connection?

Ask for help from a psychologist, stress counsellor, relaxation therapist, qualified hypnotherapist or even alternative therapist. If these do not work, you must go back to your GP for professional guidance.

Or you could treat yourself to a bottle of some really top-notch booze, a pack of fine cigars and a greenhouse. The latter is essential in our climate if you want to sit around outdoors and just chill.

Get a good book or even a DVD, smoke, drink, let the whole world sort out its own problems for a couple of hours and pretend you're not involved in it at all.

It's so much more effective than all those rigidly defined stress relievers that you have to concentrate on. As I said, it works for me but if stressful rigidity and adherence to unwavering rules is your thing, have fun with that.

I'm going to have a smoke and a whisky.

It won't be the first of the evening. Note to Dylan Thomas - it's not a record any more.


sixtypoundsaweekcleaner said...

Oh God.....I'm going to bed.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Solar powered lighting inside the tunnel?

Leg-iron said...

Conan - can't work. Once it stopped in the tunnel it would take ages to get enough to get enough to move it again.

Sixtypoundsaweekcleaner - worry not. Have a drink and a smoke and let someone else sort it out. If it can't be sorted then it has to be adapted to.

Trains O Scale said...

You drew me in with your solar powered engine, now I can't get out of here. Love your work! Cheers, Max.

Zaphod said...

I'm a wage slave, but I allow myself to be seriously underpaid.

I do as I please, take the piss, and break all the rules. Boss puts up with it cos I'm good value.

My work is interesting, and I don't deal with the public. All I need is my ipod, (and good headphones).

Since the kids have flown the nest I've got nobody to be responsible for. I've really taken to this second childhood lark. The kids all worry about me!

I've inadvertently acquired some good survival habits, so now I can just follow the principle of, "A lot of problems go away if you ignore them".

I know that not everyone is this lucky, so I appreciate it all.

Sometimes I get exasperated by humans, but then I remember to laugh instead.

Health scares? I don't need to worry about any of em. I'm a smoker, the fags will get me in the end. If I DO die of something else, I've got away with all the smoking! Either way, I win.

I never do the lottery, it wouldn't be fair. Nobody else would ever win. :-)

RantinRab said...

A health scare the other week has gave me a 'if it's not good enough fucking sack me' attitude to work.

It's only beans and crisps, not life or death, but it's a race against the clock and pretty stressful.

Or used to be stressful. They get what they get, end of story.

microdave said...

I can relate to a lot of that. I would love to start afresh, but family commitments and lack of backbone mean it isn't going to happen any time soon...

Unfortunately my main hobby has become too damned expensive to continue, so that doesn't help.

I have often wondered about the sanity of those who listen to others troubles. It must take a very special mindset to cope with that, and still live your own life. I'm far too considerate to inflict my problems on others....

Lastly to matters technical. Why not fit your train with a small battery to keep it going through the tunnel? - Actually you could probably do it with a large value capacitor, which wouldn't suffer from the memory problems typical of consumer batteries. Old power supplies would be a good source - just be mindful of the voltage rating. They make a hell of a mess when they blow up!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Or one could become a gynaeocologist - that combines hobby with profession, and is very well paid.

Chris said...

...I couldn't work out how to pass the path in the middle.

Embed the rails in the pathway (like they do for urban tramways). Just a thought.

Avoiding stress? Stoicism. In its grown-up form it's not just the "Yeah. And?" of philosophies; it's more "It didn't have to be sunny today. Isn't it nice that it is?"

Like my old gran used to say "A little bit of what you fancy..." Wise old bird (drinker, smoker, died at the tragically young age of 84).

Anonymous said...

As well as all the other good things about fish, you can use the water in the tank to feed your plants with.


Leg-iron said...

Trains O Scale - I have a massive amount of N gauge that I have to sell. Old eyes and 9 mm tracks don't mix.

I'll miss having a station capable of dealing with 10-coach trains in the attic, and a 40-wagon coal train. I'll miss sending a train on its way to have it return a full five minutes later but when they come off the rails now I don't have the patience to fit the little swines back on.

So I'm skipping OO and going straight to O. The little garden experiment is the beginning.

Leg-iron said...

Zaphod, Rab - I only managed to get that mindset two years before I was officially told I was to be made redundant. All those extra hours hadn't helped at all.

It was like this. I had a project, commercial, fully funded by the commercial sponsor. It would have cost the college nothing, in fact they would have made 15% profit on top of tot he total costs. the project needed a full time assistant to run.

I was told - no, you can't employ anyone because of 'costs'. No assistant meant no project because I couldn't run it myself and do all the teaching/research/consultancy/pointless meetings too.

There were no costs for the college. Only profits.

If they wanted to get rid of me they could have handed control of that project to someone else Once it was in, it would have been company property, not mine.

Therefore, there was only one possible reason they didn't want to take on a three year project. The department didn't have three years left.

I didn't tell the head of department this. His smug glee at telling me his boss had refused the assistant left me thinking 'Well, you enjoy yourself. I'm going to cut right back on the unpaid overtime and wait for the payout'.

Now I work long hours and odd hours, but I do it for myself and so it's not really work.

No pointless meetings either. I charge for meetings now. Nobody calls me to one unless it's important.

Leg-iron said...

Microdave- I'm experimenting with parts from those solar powered lights that charge up batteries during the day. It could be fun to make one that starts up when the sun goes down. I have a brake van with solar-charged tail light all ready to put on the end ;)

Leg-iron said...

Mark - you're only going to see diseased ones...

Leg-iron said...

Chris - good idea. I prefer to take in the rails for the winter but a shallow slot in the path is possible, with a thin piece of wood to fill it when the track's not there.

Leg-iron said...

Anon - yes indeed. The fish crap in the water is good fertiliser.

If your base is sand, when you change it, spread the old sand on the lawn. Full of fertiliser and helps with drainage.

I tried tropical fish but the water here is is heavily treated that few species can survive in it. Even with all the dechlorinators and other additives.

Currently I am petless. I do have a tank though, so a return to goldfish is on the cards.

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