Everyone’s on the 5:2 diet. Just not the right one.
You know the way the 5:2 diet works. A radiantly smug colleague probably told you about it. You eat normally five days a week, and consume just 500 calories the other two days. It’s something to do with kick-starting your metabolism-energy-caveman-chemistry-biology-beach-body-radiant-cave-lady-nutrition-health levels.
Whatever, it seems to be good. But this is even better.
How about we apply the 5:2 premise to our lives? What if we worked our work days, but restricted our stress intake those other two days? Ah? How ‘bout it?
You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about reclaiming our weekends. Taking back our spare time. Aiming for a semblance of balance. At least pretending we think it’s possible to have work, rest, and play. Actually, physically, consciously keeping stress exactly where it belongs: On. Weekdays.
Brilliant as it is, this actually isn’t my idea.
It is my favourite writer’s. British journalist Jon Ronson was sitting in a therapist’s office, trying to confront the reality of having anxiety disorder. Grappling with the idea that a feeling of bubbling panic would be omnipresent in his life, he says: “But what if I did the 5:2 diet for my anxiety?”
He proposed a weekday regime of stressing out, with a two-day reprieve. Just like the diet, but for his psyche. Now, not everyone has an anxiety disorder (though 9.7 per cent of Australians do, so 1.3 million adults) and the idea that something as wild as mental illness might be contained by time is flawed.
But we know that stress, in its many manifestations, can be just as dangerous.
Stress can give people headaches, aches, pains, asthma, diabetes, nausea, tense muscles, insomnia, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shaking, sexual dysfunction, colds, grinding teeth, excessive sweating, clenched jaws, influenza, constipation, diarrhea, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, cold feet, shaking, nervousness, and infections. It can make us lose control, lose weight, lose perspective, lose relationships, lose desire, and ultimately, lose ourselves.