For many people, these times are a time of stress. It’s not just politicians and businessmen who are overburdened, but also the shopkeeper on the corner, the bus driver or the mother who takes her children to school. Students are overwhelmed by exams, but also by the accumulation of parties or messages on their mobile phones. Retired people are burdened because, as they no longer have anything to do, they are burdened with their children’s responsibilities. In fact, “ando agobiado” or “estoy agobiada” is one of the most recurrent phrases in ordinary conversation, sometimes as an easy way to avoid complications. And it is also common to use “Please, don’t burden me” as an exculpatory device when asking for something.
An Andalusian attributed the cause of his anguish at work to “mardito eztré”. Stress is the new name for overwhelm. While “agobio” seems to have its origins in the Latin “gibbus” – giba – which suggests that the burdened person is carried on his or her back, the Anglo-Saxon “stress” refers rather to the anxiety that a certain situation causes.
Whether we call it “stress” or “overwhelm”, it is an easily identifiable phenomenon that can almost always be remedied with a little intelligence. Those who suffer from it think it is caused by too much activity, but usually the problems of overwhelm are really caused by lack of attention. Stressed out” people get into this state of agitation by not concentrating on the task at hand. Moreover, a closer look reveals that those who complain of being overwhelmed are usually overwhelmed because they spread their attention over several simultaneous activities, rather than focusing on one thing.
Human beings are not multitasking machines. We feel fulfilled if we attend to only one person or one activity that completely fills our life horizon at that moment. It is therefore advisable to do things “one at a time”. But that requires the discipline of the imagination.
Overwhelm is also poisonous for the Christian life. Jesus alludes to this in the parable of the sower, when he warns that the seed of the Word becomes frustrated in the human heart because of the seduction of riches and the cares of this world (cf. Mt 13:22). Many people live burdened – this is what we are constantly told – and often they do not know why. They think it is because of too many obligations or the complications of life, but in reality the ultimate cause of their stress is not outside, but inside: they are burdened because they lack the ability to live in the present and thus to enjoy it, doing one thing after another. To them – to us too? – we can recommend: “Don’t get overwhelmed”.
Juan Carlos cmf
(PHOTO: Luis Villasmil)