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Life in the Spanish fast lane

Spain, particularly the south of Spain, is especially attractive to expatriates from northern European countries not only because of the sun, but also the pace of life. Many are attracted to move here by what they see as a slower, more relaxed lifestyle. But would you believe it’s possible to suffer from stress here too? In fact, because stress is caused – to a great degree – by our reaction to our circumstances rather than just the circumstances themselves, it should be no surprise that we can feel just as stressed out “here” as we did “there”. So now the long hot summer is over, it’s back to work for many of us. Others are picking up where they left off with charity work, classes or associations and clubs. Our diaries are filling up with activities, events, appointments, dates, celebrations, shopping lists, meetings and problem solving tasks. Time is seemingly in shorter supply all of the sudden. That is life in the Spanish fast lane – just like anywhere else. I still remember when I was a student here, over 20 years ago. I naively explained (in broken Spanish, of course) to my host mother that life was not stressful in Spain like it was in my country. She laughed and rattled off a long list of reasons why she felt stressed out all the time. And after all she was caring for four children, her elderly mother and an international student while maintaining two homes and a part time business. Who could blame her? Stress, therefore, is a universal predicament. And as one expert I interviewed for a magazine article once told me, it’s not that people in different regions of the world suffer from more or less stress, it’s just that the causes of stress are different. And we’re back to our perceptions. I once took a fascinating course given by a psychotherapist who described it like this: imagine yourself as a video camera. The life you are living is projected out from the disc playing inside. You can try to change your life by changing the things you’re filming, but the only real way to achieve a different life is to change the disc. What’s the message? If you’re feeling stressed, look inside to see what you’re projecting on to the screen that is your life. It really doesn’t matter if you’re “here” or if you’re “there”, until you change that disc, you’ll keep creating a stressful life in the fast lane wherever you go.
Blog published on 21 September 2009