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Stress is like Golf

You don't want the Highest Score

Yesterday I took a life change index.  Basically I measured my stress level by looking at major events that have happened in my life over the last 12 to 18 months.  Stress is a feeling we experience when we perceive that the demands on us exceed our personal resources. On this particular index, numerical values are given to each life event.  Check off the events and add up the values.  If you score under 125 you have low stress, if between 125 and 250 you’re in the middle range, when above 250 stress is high and you should immediately and regularly reduce your stress.  If your score is over 300, your chance of illness increases 80%.  

My score — 546.  F i v e    h u n d r e d,   f o r t y - s i x. Twenty other people were in the room taking this same index.  The ones among them that were truly stressed-out were at 248 to 253.  I should be dead!  When I was in the center of all those life changing events, I found myself in emergency surgery -- an emergency appendectomy.  Stress makes us sick.  Think back on a stressful time in your life.  When it was over, did you get sick? Let’s reduce the demands on us and increase our ability to cope, our health depends on it.  

One of our best stress reducers comes in a two letter word — No.  As we learn to say no, even to good things, we can decrease the demands on us.  It becomes easier to say no when we understand what we are designed for — everything else is someone else’s yes.  Another thing that reduces the demand on us is asking for help.  It sounds so simple but seems like such a difficult step.  When we’re overwhelmed by demands, it’s a perfect time to ask for help — from family, neighbors, professionals, friends, co-workers, anyone in a position to help.  As we reduce the stress in our lives, it’s important to keep our focus on the main thing.  Many times we end up consumed in low priority activities, having forgotten the most important thing.  Whatever your number one thing is, go back to it and don’t sweat the small stuff.

No matter how good we are at reducing the demands on us, we’ll never be without stress.  Improving our ability to cope with the demands or the emotional effects is a necessity.  One of the best ways to cope with the demands of life is to schedule into our day a 30 minute recharge time.  Give our bodies and minds a moment to relax and get away from it all — take a walk, soak in the tub, sit in the park, eat lunch with a friend, go for a drive, do yoga, meditate, use deep breathing exercises.  In an attempt to manage our stress, it’s imperative that we add physical exercise to our routine.  It moves our mental focus off of our stressors and provides us with additional energy.  I know what you’re thinking,  “I don’t have extra time to recharge and exercise. Remember, I’m already overwhelmed.”  Recharge time and physical exercise will reduce our mental and emotional anxiety-stress-demands and free up some space resulting in a good return on our time-investment.  In other words, we can’t afford not to.  

What’s one thing you are willing to do this week to reduce your stress or increase your coping skills?



More Costly than You Realize

    Both of my son’s are highly intelligent, as well as strong minded.  One of my sons is extremely strong minded.  So when he was two and three years old, I found myself challenged in new and demanding ways.  We decided to shift the standards slightly for him.  Before he came along the standards were severe — you must sit at the table through the entire meal, you must eat everything on your plate, you must wear clothes at all times, you can not use your loud voice in the house.  I think you get the idea.  At some point, the standards were reduced to: you can never put scissors in the electrical outlet, you can never run out in the road, you must eat something, anything.  Basically, the standards were reduced to keeping this kid alive.  Even that shift was not enough to keep my energy levels up and my mental acuity high.  

    One day I found myself on the couch hollering.  Let me pause here and mention: hollering seldom ever helps anyone (your child, your co-worker, your neighbor) develop into anything positive.  I knew this, but my exhausted body had settle for sitting on the couch and hollering reprimands to this precious, strong-minded child.  As I was yelling out really good uplifting stuff, I thought to myself, “Why is he regressing?  It seems like he’s lost ground in this battle of self-discipline.”  Then it dawned on me.  It wasn’t about him, it was about what I was tolerating.  I was tolerating more of his poor behavior, like throwing fits and disregarding others.  I wasn’t following through with the things that helped his development.  I learned a valuable lesson that day — what I tolerate will cost me more than I really wanted to pay.  

    That lesson has been repeated my entire adult life. Perhaps I’m a slower learner than I realized.   Let me say it again,

what we tolerate will cost us more than we ever meant to pay. 

I was paying for it in big ways that day.  It was costing me my sanity, my peace, my joy.  All because I had unknowingly arrived at the decision to tolerate.

    As you reflect on 2015, what did you tolerate in yourself and in others?  Chronic stress, overwhelming fear, excessive anger, negative attitude, inaction, disorganization, guilt for not doing it all, unfinished projects, self-deprecating thoughts, poor communication?  What you tolerate drains you.  As I stopped tolerating the poor behavior of my young son, things began to improve.  I could think more creatively, enjoy the days better, and regain some energy.  

    Whatever happened in your life in 2015, we can be sure of one commonality: You. 

You are the common thread in all of those situations, circumstances, moments.

That might sound like bad news but it’s really good news.  Because you are capable of making different choices, either in your actions or your thoughts or both.  Consider making a list of the things you’ve been tolerating for the past year.  Write out why you are tolerating that mess, that attitude, that thought process.   Devote a day a month to unfinished projects, or an hour a day to focus on learning new skills, or set aside time/money for a weekly session with someone who can help you overcome a specific obstacle. Take the challenge to make a plan that will reduce the list that is draining you by the end of 2016.

    What is the biggest thing you are tolerating right now?   What are some action steps you can take today, each week, and each month to reduce the cost?  Cheers to more creativity, better days and more energy in 2016.