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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor Emeritus of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.

The stress of the deckchair

Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:11:00 +0000 Posted in Today Extremadura

The life of man (and woman) is not limited to the professional work . Another dimension of this life is that of leisure (not idleness), which enriches us in the disinterested and calm attention with our fellow men and women and makes us more contemplative. But while working we can also live together and contemplate. The ideal is not to choose between the laborious Martha and the contemplative Mary, but to be Martha and Mary at the same time.

Why do we have free time? According to Aristotle "we work in order to be able to have skolé (leisure) afterwards; in order to be able to devote ourselves freely afterwards to those occupations that we like and that develop our spirit." For the Greeks, free time was not passive rest (idleness), but active rest (noble leisure) destined to learning and to the development of the personality.

Is it enough to cut off the work for the status of noble leisure to emerge? It is not enough. Leisure is an attitude staff that must be developed. For Pieper "leisure is a state of the soul. It is a form of that silence which is a budget for the perception of reality. It is the attitude of receptive and contemplative perception in being." (Leisure and the intellectual life, 1974).

Anyone would benefit from taking a few days off from time to time to recover energy and reduce tension, but especially professionals addicted to work who, in addition, move in a very competitive work environment; they are exposed to chronic stress, which is characterized (among other symptoms) by fatigue, irritability and anxiety. I am not talking about stress as a first reaction of the organism to environmental pressures; in this second case it is a necessary adaptive response. Stress is detrimental to physical and mental health only when it is intensive and continuous.

The stressed-out worker is the protagonist of many humorous cartoons. One of them depicts an executive with a briefcase walking in a hurry down the street looking anxiously at his wristwatch. His inner language is as follows: "at ten o'clock to the notary; at eleven o'clock a client; at twelve o'clock to the workshop; at one o'clock a heart attack. "Let's see if I make it!" (El Roto).

The possibilities of free time are not always fulfilled during a vacation period. Worse still: some people return from them with more stress than they had before they started their vacation. This paradox is the effect of the so-called "holiday syndrome", which arises from the maladaptation to leisure time. Those addicted to work feel insecure when they are deprived of the security provided by the routines of working life.

The holiday syndrome is often exacerbated by the school vacations of spoiled children who are 24 hours a day pestering their parents with the same complaint: "I'm bored". That's the topic of another humorous cartoon: You see a married couple on a couch. They are both in a slump.

He: "Tomorrow they return to high school".

Her: Tell me again!

The stress of the vacations can be moderated by breaking them up. Also with a positive attitude, which seems to me comparable (saving the distances), to that of the British citizens in 1941, when the planes of Nazi Germany bombed for ten months the main cities of England, especially London. The exemplary reaction of Londoners was promoted by Winston Churchill in his famous speech "We must never give up! Citizens reacted with courage and (British) humor in the midst of tragedy.

One of the possibilities of a sense of humor is to "transform" reality. That explains why since the destruction of London began many store owners put signs in the shop windows with this advertisement: "Open as usual". From one of the stores only one wall was left standing, from which hung a sign with this registration: "More open than usual".

Who is most exposed to vacation stress? Those who do not know how to disconnect with their work and the idle ones. The mind of the former is still on work (some take the computer to the beach). The latter adopt a sedentary and isolated life in which every day is the same.

Whoever spends several hours a day lying on a deckchair on the beach with no other pretension than to count clouds, ends up suffering from unpleasant feelings of loneliness. At that moment, the inner emptiness that was buried is usually revealed, from which only reworked experiences emerge, some of them from subject existential. Nothing else could be expected from someone who opted for the banal, without the necessary courage to face himself. All that stresses a lot, of course, although I suppose it is less stressful than stone-cutting. Or not?