Monday, May 15, 2017

Why is living in Japan stressful?

"I can't do this anymore....."

Who has not said these words at many stages of the life?

Since I've been in Japan for my PhD., they were the words I've repeated most in all my life.

"You are stressed out because you are working hard, you have to rest and de-stress yourself."

It's true, in Japan you have to work a lot but in other countries too. Throughout these years, I realized that it is not the stress the reason which unbalances me, actually it is called pressure.

According to Dr. Hendrie Weisinger (Ph.D.), psychologist the author of Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most; there is a fundamental difference between stress and pressure.

What is stress?

Stress is a situation where there are too many demands and few resources, time, money, energy to meet them.

In all over the world, at all stages of life we  stress out and it is part of the life.

What is pressure?

Pressure is a situation in which we perceive that something important depends on the outcome of its performance.

Feeling that you only have one chance to get something, like the penalty kick in the final of the World Cup.

This is where the Japanese culture is involved and that's why the Japanese system is hard for latin people.

“縦社会の人間関係-Tate-shakai no Ningen Kankei (something like "personal relationships in a vertical society"), the words to express precisely the verticality of Japanese society.

Japanese society is not an horizontal egalitarian society (as might be the case in many Western societies). It is a vertical society in which there is almost never an egalitarian or reciprocal relationship and all relations go from top to bottom and are not equal.

That means if you make a mistake, it is not only your fault, it is also your superiors mistake. Every move you make, you must think about the effect it can cause.

Effectiveness of decisions is the key in Japan, try to not involve others by your mistake, choosing the decision that there are less risk to have a mistake.

This is the cause of feeling a lot of  pressure from your superiors, pressure of youself, fear to make a mistake, for not meeting the expectations, feeling stressed to an unknown environment that you understand but you are not accustomed.

Weisinger says that when everything seems super important our anguish unnecessarily intensifies. 

In addition you secrete hormones called CORTISOL AND ADRENALINE.

Theses hormones are in charge of preparing for an emergency situation, affecting blood glucose, heart rate and breathing, increase the oxygen and nutrients supply to the muscles, and temporarily close the maintenance of other systems of the body, and the Knock-out happens that is the time that you feel that you can not anymore.

I really wanted to give the advice that everybody in Mexico told me in all my life: 

"Don't care what others think. Think about you."

My sincere opinion is that in Japan you can not think like that because of the social structure, your actions are the responsibility of your supervisor, the actions of your supervisor are the responsibility of the professor / boss, that means that your actions are your professor/ boss actions for the university or company. 

That is the reason, living in Japan is not so easy because apart from all the workload, you have to deal with the burden of social pressure.

I do not say it's good or bad, everyone has their opinion.

But what I can recommend is that knowing the cause of why you feel that "you can't anymore" helps to assimilate things and be able to move forward.

If I could travel to the past , I would advise me the following:

1) Accept and know the system. If you don't know it, you will not be able to approach your goal or change the system.

2) Talk to yourself. Be clear about your goals, so the pressure you have will have a motive and help you move forward.

3) The pressure you feel now, in a few months you will not feel it. I play squash, and I can tell you that it is very different a friendly match than entering a tournament, since you need that pressure to put your skills on test. Take it as part of a mental training, every moment of pressure, you exercise your mental strength, which is one of the most important factors for a successful life.

4) Sometimes, your expectation are different and that's make you feel bad, I recommend that before looking for guilty someone or something, look for another perspective of your present situation, maybe you can find what you were looking for in other way. 

5) If you made a mistake even though you tried to do the best, we are not perfect, relax, is not the end of the world. There are always the magic words in Japan, "suimasen deshita", "sorry". 

6) If you have already analyzed everything and you realize that it is not really what you wanted, it is wise to change your mind and go on for another way.

I could continue with my list of recommendations like: patience, do exercise, meditation, etc etc, but those you are already knew.

To finish I want to share this phrase....

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