Many of us can give examples of it – looming deadlines at work, family commitments that leave us rushed (like getting the kids to music lessons or hockey on time), traffic, unexpected demands thrown into our day... but can you actually define stress? When pressed to give a definition rather than example most people will say it's these bad things that happen to you that upset your happiness or peace of mind. They are only half right... You can't solve what you don't understand... and so they can't alleviate their stress. If that sounds like you, you'll want to read the rest of this post.
Being a busy 30 something adult myself, I am no stranger to stress in my personal life. Clinically speaking, I'd be so bold as to say it is a unifying experience of all my patients regardless of their chief concern. So... it makes this an important conversation to have regarding your mental health for sure... but also your physical health in very real tangible ways.
It can be as benign as a change in temperature of the room you are sitting in or as disruptive as a family death. It can be positive changes – such as a wedding or a pending date. Even winning the lotto can be a stress.
You need a few more concepts to understand the full implication stress (or change) has on your health.
In the same way that you increase muscle strength at the gym by lifting weights and increasing the weight as you grow. Throughout your life, you will be handed experiences and situations that challenge you, and you grow through them and adapt and become more stress resilient. The more stress resilient you are the more you can handle without “losing it” with the stress. So... you see... stress is actually a good thing and there will always be stress (or change) in your life.
Meaning a level of stress at which they can cope easily. When the level of stress overwhelms your threshold for coping, this is when you experience symptoms of pain, suffering, etc. This second idea leaves you with two options to feel better – either reduce the stress you are experiencing or increase your stress threshold.
Admittedly, you cannot remove all stress from your life... however... I encourage you to take an honest look at the unnecessary stress that you are allowing to have a hold on you. What habits, behaviours, commitments, or beliefs are you carrying around that you can let go of? It's a bit like packing too many unnecessary items on vacation – over stuff your luggage and deal with the back pain of carrying it. In more concrete terms... take a look at your weekly schedule... what items/events do you need to be more realistic about?
This means looking after yourself and your mental outlook on life. The general recommendations for dietary and lifestyle measures can help you do this. If you don't know where to start, check out my free 80 Habits eBook for ideas. I wrote it with the idea that you can get a handle on the actions that will make the most impact in your overall health/stress resilience.
Which brings me to my last point for today...
For example, everyone knows someone who seems to let nothing disrupt their mood and somehow the stress seems to roll off them “like water rolls off a duck's back”. Then we know other people who the littlest things seem to overwhelm them and cause an anxiety attack. Bring this idea home and think about your own personal triggers and areas of strength. For me personally, I get rattled/annoyed by inefficiencies and surprises in my day, lots of little demands and administrative tasks, not running on time, and clutter in my workspace... but I can sit with someone who is expressing intense anger or sadness and be okay with that, which would send others reeling. We are all unique like this. They key is to know your strengths, play to them where you can, and of course, find a way to grow through our triggers to become more stress resilient. (The 80 Habits eBook is designed to help you see quickly what areas you could be availing of more stress resilient behaviours in by using the “heat map” at the end of the quiz.)
Stress is just change that you need to adapt to. If becoming more robust in the face of stress (or just cracking under it a little less often) is your goal then you must become as stress resilient as possible by
How does stress affect you? What are your triggers? What resilience strategies have you found most helpful? I'd love to know! Leave me a message below in the comments so I know I'm not alone here.
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