Stress Relief, an Unselfish Act

Last week when I was writing about stress relief and clarity, I mentioned in passing that being stressed out was making me snappish with my boys. This is one of the many bad effects of stress in your life; it wears on the people you love, and your relationships with them.

An Unselfish Act

This is one of the reasons I say that relieving your stress is an unselfish act. Oh, you may do something totally selfish to help fix your stress. For example, one of my top stress relieving activities is to take a 2 hour paddle on my kayak.

During those two hours, I do nothing for my wife, or my kids. I’m not working to feed them, I’m not cooking, or cleaning, or educating, or refereeing their battles. I’m not playing with them, or reading with them, or doing anything at all with them. In fact, I’m completely avoiding them.

Selfish, right?

Well, yes and no. Those two precious hours of solitude, during which I’m doing nothing with them, I’m doing something for them; I’m chasing away grouchy, scoldy daddy and bringing home happy, fun daddy. If you think replacing the grump with the fun guy isn’t doing something for them, well, I don’t really know what else to say.

There’s More

There’s more, though, to stress and an unselfish act. Taking a bit of selfish time to improve the lives of others is a little bit unselfish, but what if you simply performed and unselfish act?

In the midst of my awful, rotten, no good stressed out lousy last week, I saw my neighbour walking with her little girl. They had just got her a brand new bike, which she badly wanted to ride, but couldn’t. The seat was too high and mummy was cautioning daughter she’d just have to wait a little to grow into it.

Now, I’ve got three kids myself (have I ever mentioned that?) and I know the disappointment a child feels when he’s got a great new toy, but can’t yet use it. It looked to me like the seat could be lowered enough for the girl to ride it, and offered to do so.

I won’t bore you with the gory details of a poorly assembled bike, with a bizarre seat mount and poorly designed accessories. Long story short, a ratchet, a pair of clamps and 10 minutes later, there was a very happy little girl, and a happy, very relieved mummy.

Turns out that, though they’re both the children of machinists, neither of them knows which end of the hammer drives the nail. Without Andrew the engineer neighbour, that seat wasn’t getting fixed.

Now, did this little repair job add anything to my life? Did it fix one of my problems? In short, did I have a single thing to gain?

No. At least not directly, but I did it anyway.

You see, and I’m sure you’ve already got there, the smile on a little kid’s face, and the relief on mummy’s face, from this simple act, gave me respite from my own problems.

Man is a social animal.


A few minutes away from my own problems. A little girl’s smile. A neighbour’s thanks. A sense of community. All of these helped me cope with my own stress. An act of community helped me, the individual.

Yes, you can exercise the stress away. You can meditate the stress away. You can unplug yourself and isolate yourself and nature walk the stress away.

You can also perform a simple, unselfish act.