Posted in Family, Personal life

Stressing The Importance of Gadgets

Stressed cat
Stroke it the right way and it’d just be a pussycat

Years ago, when I was a fresh young executive in the dog-eat-dog world of PR, it was the done thing to complain about your stress levels. Anyone in the office who didn’t was assumed to be not working hard enough.

Our boss Jim*, an ex-hack in his early 40s, was a kind man. Under pressure from the agency owners to maximise profits, he did his best to resolve our anguish, while still appearing to crack the whip. It can’t have been easy to be in sole charge of a bevy of ambitious young women, many of whom were prone to tears when losing a pitch for new business. Always the rebel, I was aghast when I overheard two women senior to me seriously discussing the merits of crying in the workplace: “It’s every professional’s  right to express their true feelings.” I suspect there were days when Jim could have cried himself.

A family man with three lovely children, Jim was married to a former beauty queen. Although she adored him, I suspect she couldn’t offer him much practical help for dealing with women in suits. She’d probably have suggested a manicure to cure our stress. Jim’s solution was to send us on a stress management course.

Managing Stress

Goodness knows how much the firm paid for that course. We were all shipped off to a posh country house hotel where our training session lasted all day. The cost of the coffee break alone must have run into treble figures. Inevitably, when we returned to the office, the training course made not the slightest bit of difference to our stress levels. All it did was salve Jim’s conscience that he was looking after us properly.

At the time, I was the only dissenter. “Cure the cause, not the symptoms!” I implored him. “Just eliminate the stress, instead of managing it.” I never did like wearing a suit.

Avoiding Stress

Now that I’m working mostly from home, stress avoidance, not stress management, is my mantra. So when a nice man from confused.com challenged me to choose a stress-reducing gadget, with the chance of winning one for myself, I jumped at the opportunity.  Jim could never have solved our problems with gadgets: they simply didn’t exist. In those days, the golfball typewriter was considered cutting-edge technology. If we wanted a gadget, we had to improvise. One of my colleagues infamously did so: she lobbed an ashtray at poor Jim in the middle of a difficult meeting. (Yes, it was that long ago: smoking in the office was still considered an acceptable way to manage your stress levels. Jim’s chosen prop was the cigar.)

My own approach to resolving stress is more constructive. I’ve pinpointed the early morning as the greatest source of stress in my day.

The Scream by Edvard Monch
Oh no, not the Today programme at dawn again!

The stress kicks off when  the radio-alarm wakes me up, ensuring that the first voices I hear every day are not those of my loved ones,  but Messrs Humphreys and Naughtie on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Much as I admire these fine broadcasters, being woken by the news headlines is about as soothing as fingernails running down a blackboard. It’s less jarring when their gentler colleagues, Justin Webb and Evan Davies, are on duty, but even my favourite radio voice of all time, David Attenborough, could not make those news stories less than stressful.

The Antidote to Stress

Instead, what I really need to sound the alarm is an iPhone, loaded with soothing tunes, in an iPod dock on my bedside table.  Music, not news, would wake me up: so that’s one  source of stress that would bite the dust.

Another stress factor is checking the weather, so that I can put out the right school clothes for my daughter. Summer dress or winter pinafore? Light cardigan or sweatshirt? Boots or shoes? Socks or tights?  I’d therefore also download a local weather app on to my iPhone.  Then, each night before bed, I could  check the forecast and lay out the appropriate clothes, leaving one less thing to worry about in the morning.

Knowing the weather forecast, I’d be able to ensure that it wasn’t just any old soothing music that woke me up in the mornings, but music chosen to put the most positive spin on the weather. (Ah, you see, all those years in PR were not wasted.) Whatever weather we woke up to, its accompanying tune would be a pleasure to hear. For sunshine, the choice would be easy: “Here Comes The Sun” by George Harrison. In case of rain, “It’s Raining Men” by The Weathergirls would never fail to lift my mood. For exceptionally bad storms, I’d pick “Greased Lightning”, from the movie Grease. Snow would provide the perfect excuse to play “I’m Walking in the Air” from The Snowman. If the weather ever got too depressing, I might cheat and load ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky”, a song that my daughter and I had on permanent repeat in the car last summer to raise our spirits while driving through pouring rain. But you get the general picture.

Less Stress For All

The word music, annotated
Has charms to soothe the savage breast (William Congreve)

My system would be endlessly adaptable to suit all tastes in music. For those of classical bent, there’d be Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, although to reflect the impact of global warming and its ever-weirder weather systems, you might want to play the Summer movement in Winter, and vice versa.

You could also use the system to herald landmark days and events. “Get Me To The Church On Time” from My Fair Lady would signal a wedding. My daughter would not be the only one looking forward to hearing Alice Cooper sing “School’s Out”.

I’d even use it on days when I didn’t have to get up. I’ve thought of the perfect song for a lie-in, by possibly the most melodious duo  of all time:  Simon and Garfunkel. I bet you can guess what it would be: “The Sound of Silence”.

Soothed.com? That’ll be me.

This post was written for confused.com’s New Year Revolution Competition.

*not his real name

Author:

Optimistic author, blogger, journalist, book reviewer and public speaker whose life revolves around books. Her first love is writing fiction, including the new Sophie Sayers Village Mystery novels (out 2017), short stories and essays inspired by her life in an English village. She also writes how-to books for authors and books about living with Type 1 diabetes. She is Author Advice Centre Editor and and UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) Advice Centre blog, an ambassador for the children's reading charity Readathon, and an official speaker for the diabetes research charity JDRF.

2 thoughts on “Stressing The Importance of Gadgets

  1. I’d never even thought of how choosing my wake-up music could change the start to my day. It’s a great idea. I currently wake up to a radio station, and at least half the time, they’re playing something that is really jarring. At least my alarm has progressive volume, e.g. it starts quietly and gets a bit louder every few seconds. Of course, by then, I’ve hit the snooze button and gone back to sleep…

    1. Isn’t it funny how easily we get into habits that are actually so wrong for us, though they seem the right thing to do? Being woken by the radio does beat being woken by an alarm bell or buzzer – but only just! Am now on the look-out for other foolish habits in my life. This post could become the start of a long series!!

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