The Titanic, launched on April 10, 1912, was built to be unsinkable. Instead, it sailed into infamy. Four days into its maiden voyage, it struck an iceberg, which should have been survivable.
Titanic was built with sixteen compartments, and should have been able to withstand up to five of them filling with water.
Problem was, not all of them had walls all the way up, making it possible for water to spill over the tops. Others simply leaked. But if each of these hatches was
indeed a sealed unit, then the iceberg would only have been a wound, instead of a fatal blow. Since then, ship makers have made sure the hull has watertight barriers, and it is up to the crew to make sure they keep the doors shut between compartments.
Our stresses come in many compartments: work, commuting, relationships, etc. We have stress in our hobbies, our projects, and even in our sleep.
Just like the maritime builders, we need to remember the value of separating these compartments. Otherwise it is all too easy for one stress, for example work, to spill over into every other area. If we are still talking about work during our leisure time, the time will not be very rejuvenating. If we are thinking about work while our kids are trying to talk to us, that leads to more stress. If we cannot sleep because we are thinking about work, then it means we wake up ill-prepared for the next day, and likely to increase the stress that work was causing in the first place.
So how do we close the doors between these areas of our lives? Two tools are at our disposal:
1. Relaxation: This one is not automatic, but is actually a learnable skill. From diciplines of Yoga to hypnosis, you can learn to breathe deeply, lower your pulse, and wipe all your work stresses away for the moment. This can be structured as a simple “power nap” that could take only minutes, or it could be incorporated into an actual nap, such as a mid-afternoon “power-hour” during a day off, to recharge after a hectic week. If the stress is coming from another compartment, say from a relationship, then the same technique can clear your mind of these stresses and/or anxieties, so you can be uncluttered in your business decisions.
2. Excitement: This one is not intuitive, but also can seal off the compartments in your life. Consider the roller coaster: nobody is talking about the office while they are hurtling down the rails. So the stress of the ride forces the brain and the body into using different circuits. People with intense stress at a computer all week will find great benefits in doing something else that may also be extremely stressful: rock climbing, white water rafting, or even playing a competitive sport for points or for a few dollars. But note that this needs to be an alternate excitement; if one works all day testing roller coasters, then another ride on a day off would hardly get one’s mind off work!
So remember to value all the compartments in your life, and to try to keep them separate. No work papers beside your easy chair, and no fishing tackle on your desk at work. Focus on the compartment you are in, and enjoy the fullness of each area of your life. That’s the best way to keep the stresses in your life from overwhelming you, and from sinking your health.
Remember the Titanic!