Recently, one of my coworkers came back from his annual physical and looked at me in dismay while confessing, “I have high blood pressure. I’m stressed out at 24.”
Yes, stressed out at 24. Stress isn’t just a national epidemic, it’s an American way of life. That’s probably why they legalized marijuana in Colorado, although now they’re too stoned to remember what they were stressed about.
“You have to root out the causes,” I told this young, uptight, overwrought fellow. “It could be many things. The job. Your love life. Living in New York City. Too many Starbucks. Or maybe it’s your generation. You Millennials worry a lot.”
His doctor suggested that he get one of those portable sphygmomanometers to check blood pressure, but he couldn’t even pronounce the word, much less figure out how it worked, so I advised him to buy a “mood ring.”
“What’s that?” he asked. (Don’t these kids know anything?)
Mood rings, which were a big hit during the 70s, changed colors with your body temperature. If the ring was violet, you were very happy. If it was blue, you were relaxed. Green meant you were feeling no stress. Gray was anxious and nervous. My favorite color, however, was black, which meant I was tense, harassed, overworked, and probably underpaid — so I threw the ring away because it was causing too much stress.
Channeling Dr. Oz, I told my colleague, “You should exercise. Cut your salt intake. Breathe into a paper bag. Meditate on the boss’s time. And get a pet goldfish you can confide in and bring to the office on Take Your Pet to Work Day.”
I’m trying to be a mentor to the Millennial Generation, those young hotshots between 18 to 34 who were supposed to set the world on fire and restore hope in America. I like these kids, even though they want to kick me out of my office and take my job. I hold no grudges because they’ll be the ones paying my Medicare for a long time. At least, I hope it’s a long time.
The Millennials used to be such a carefree, optimistic generation, but they have many reasons to be stressed. There aren’t enough jobs. There are fewer real career choices. They’re oppressed by college loans. And, to top it off, they have to pay for the Baby Boomers’ Social Security.
The next day this fellow was in the kitchen, getting hot water, and I asked, “What’s that you’re drinking?”
He handed me a box of Yogi tea. It was a special herbal formula guaranteed to ease tension, promote relaxation, reduce stress, and increase his gross annual income. The tea bag even had a fortune on the tab that said, “Feel great, act great and be great.”
“Are you taking courses in transcendental meditation, too?”
“No, but I might try yoga,” he said. The box had directions how to do a position called something like “sleeping dragon” or “frisky fly.” I guess everyone can use a little yoga from time to time. One of my former colleagues spends more time at yoga class than she does on the job.
The directions said he had to “let it all go.” What a liberating thought. I need to do more of that myself. In fact, it’s probably time for me to enter the “letting it all go” phase of life. It’s time for me to yell, “@#%$!*@#*!” to the system and the people holding me back. I feel my blood pressure dropping already.
The yoga directions said to sit cross-legged and twirl your middle finger. I confess I’ve used my middle finger on occasion as a form of stress reduction, but what was the point of this exercise? Then I realized I was supposed to be twirling my index finger, not my middle finger, while doing some deep breathing.
Breathe in, breathe out … I’m headed for nirvana. Where’s my paper bag? Where’s my mood ring?
Joe Pisani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.