Everyone is stressed; that isn’t new. Life is beautiful, yes, but with it comes the burden of responsibilities and commitments and other stuff that all lead to stress. We’ve all got our own way of handling it, and recently, mine has been imagining myself as an elderly Japanese man in the countryside. It’s a strange way of coping but I find that it works well for me.
When I picture myself as an old Japanese man, I start to feel calm. I don’t know why or how it started, but I think my time reading manga and watching anime led to this. Usually, most of my stress comes with being overwhelmed by work, my terrible time management, and a few things that happen outside my control.
When I get stressed, I remember the stereotypical Japanese salaryman, who is so overburdened by his job that he has no more time for other things aside from working and sleeping. I’m usually stressed out when I feel that I’m running out of time to do all the things I want to do.
Indeed the work culture of Japan is a terrible thing, with reports of death due to overworking fairly common. And while my dayjob isn’t nearly as draining as that of my Japanese brothers and sisters, stress is still available in large quantities. So to calm myself, I think of the polar opposite of the Japanese salaryman. And what comes to mind is usually something that looks like this:
Yes, that is an old Japanese farmer happily working away. Doesn’t that kind of life seem so stress-free? My stress decreases when I imagine myself in a medieval Japanese countryside, walking along the stony footpaths by the riverside, living the rural life. There’s just this laid-back feel to the image that it seems to drown out the stress and replaces it with calm and quiet. Think Rurouni Kenshin, or Samurai Champloo. The background characters? That’s who I want to be.
I think this directly relates to my fondness of hiking. Out in the mountains and away from the hustle and bustle of city life, I get the sense of freedom that is so refreshing. Where in the city, I feel choked up with all the noise and the feeling that I’m running out of time; with nature, I feel like I have all the time in the world. And maybe we do have all the time…
As ideal as it may be, I can’t be in the mountains all the time. I still have my responsibilities as a millennial yuppie. So I may not be able to bring myself to the mountains all the time, but I can take all the values I’ve learned in the mountains with me every time. Which is why when stress shows itself, I just remember my old Japanese persona, and I can get through it. It’s a process that usually goes like this:
- Tangina!? I’m feeling stressed!
- Ahhhhh, okay, calm down. Think of the country side. Think of the clouds, the grass, the water.
- Okay, if I was an old Japanese man what would I do?
- Okaaaaay, slowly does it. No need to rush, just break the stressful things into smaller pieces.
- Now, visualize and list them all down. They’re all doable, don’t let them overwhelm you. Focus on the important things.
- Okay now start doing them one at a time. You will get through this.
Like I’ve said, my stress comes from my own cluttered mind. So by organizing my thoughts, I can see the process of achieving my goals better. This isn’t groundbreaking news, it’s the most basic, step-by-step way to solve problems. But I just find joy in doing them as an old Japanese man.
Speaking of clutter, another admirable trait by the Japanese I try to emulate is Minimalism. I’m a big time hoarder mentally and physically. You can see it with my office desk and with my room. There’re lots of things going on. I have started (key word) to try (key word) and tidy up my things by throwing away stuff that I don’t really need, but there is still a long way to go before I can call myself a “minimalist.” Slowly and surely though, I’m on my way to achieving full Japanese Senior Citizen Mindset status.
So there you have it, my way of coping with the burden of being alive. As someone who spent 2 decades of his life as a hoarder, a brash and fast-paced life-liver, I am still a beginner when it comes to living the slow way of life. I still get overwhelmed by stress and I still buy some things that I don’t really need. I’m a work in progress, and that’s okay. If there’s one thing I learned from this reflection, it’s that I don’t need to rush all the time.
In conclusion, I guess this post is just about two things:
- Take it slow
- Focus on the essentials
There are still more things to learn and I’ll definitely add more to this in the future, but so far this is all I have. Thanks for reading and I hope this wasn’t a waste of your time.
keep calm and yamete kudasai
- The slow life in rural Japan is converting more young people
- Take it slow – but only if it suits you
- What is Slow Life Japan?
- Declutter your mind with Japanese Minimalism