Unnecessary obligations induce stress

The image displays two words, "CHOICE" and "OBLIGATION," suggesting you can relieve stress by refusing a feeling of obligation.

Not engaging in unnecessary obligations can reduce stress. We may create unnecessary mental stress when we engage in an activity simply because we feel it is our obligation to do so. Here is a consideration you should use to manage stress.

My friend, Gene Griessman, an expert in time management, articulated this to me. Gene also travels around the world giving presentations on Abraham Lincoln. I’ve heard Gene present a number of times. While visiting the President Carter Library in Atlanta, Georgia, I even purchased his tape. (As a former history teacher, among other subjects, I have visited most of the presidential libraries.)

At a convention of the National Speakers Association, I asked Gene how he enjoyed the keynote speaker.

Gene said to me, “I didn’t attend.” He continued: “I believed that I would learn more from the book I was reading than from listening to the speech.”

The thought hit me like a thunderbolt! Just because something is available does not mean that you are obligated to engage in it. If you do, it can prompt mental stress.

Because the washing machine has so many options does not mean that all of them need to be utilized. My computer has many features, but this does not mean I have to use all of them. I love to play the Great Highland Bagpipes, but this does not mean that I must compete as I did when I was younger.

With all the technology available today, an inherent desire so often arises that we should investigate. Curiosity drives our behavior. It propels us to continue on the pursuit of how we can use what we have discovered. In the process, the more useful and meaningful activities drop by the wayside.

I majored in economics in one of my graduate degrees. One of my learnings had to do with opportunity costs. The concept is simple. Engaging in one activity is at the “cost” of engaging in another activity. While playing baseball, I cannot play football at the same time. My playing baseball is at the “cost” of not playing football. The “cost” of watching a TV program prevents my reading a book. Exercising “costs” my not doing something else. No value is being assessed. The point is that if you are doing one thing, you cannot engage in a similar activity simultaneously. The economist Milton Friedman stated the point in simple terms: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Tip: Just because something is available, does not mean you need to engage in it. Deal with stress by identifying what is useful, and spend your time and energy on it.