“Stop the noise, stop the traffic, and stop bugging me!” She yells. “Excuse me; is the screaming in my mind bothering you?”
Do you have Hurry-Sickness? Does standing in a long holiday line that is not moving freak you out? Is Santa coming just a bit too soon this year? Do you want to alleviate stress so you can enjoy the holidays? How would this affect your business and personal life? Have you ever wondered what a stress-free life would be like?
The truth is that a stress-free life would be boring and would have no purpose or passion. A stress-free life would be useless and sad. Based on Webster’s definitions, we can see that stress is what causes us to grow and experience life:
Stress : force, pressure, strain, emphasis , force-producing change .
According to this definition, stress is necessary for change . Armed with this knowledge, we can understand that without stress, muscles atrophy and without mental stress (stimulation), our minds would stagnate. It is also true, however, that there is a negative consequence when stress and pressure become too much to bear. A simpler and more appropriate definition may be:
No Stress = Dead or Dead Bored
Appropriate Stress = Progress and Growth
You will be happy to know that you can learn to control your stress by understanding its cause and purpose. You can also learn to shift your stress levels by controlling your thoughts. But first, it is important to know the difference between positive and negative stresses.
Positive vs. Negative Stress
“How can stress be positive or negative?” you may ask. Consider the following:
- If an Olympic athlete were in the blocks for the 200 meter race and they were very relaxed, they wouldn’t run very fast would they? On the opposite side of things, what if the Olympic runner knew that there was an assassin in the stands? This amount of stress may make him falter.
- A student usually performs better when there is a deadline. On the other hand, if they are breaking up with their girlfriend that day, the stress will most likely cause them to perform poorly.
- Actors perform best with at live audience but weeks of nitpicking by a lunatic director will hinder their ability to concentrate.
Positive stress helps us to keep motivated and grow as a human being. Negative stress slows us down, creates disease, takes us out of society, and causes fatigue and more.
Our bodies do not function properly when they are under great amounts of stress. Abnormal amounts of stress can put us at a greater risk for health problems such as ulcers, colitis, heart attacks or a general decrease of immune response.
In a lab study, rats were taught a task and then punished for doing the trick. (Wow. That is mean.) This stress caused the rats to have illnesses, premature aging, hardening of the arteries and premature death. They also found a shrinking of all the lymph glands which contributed to a decrease in general immune response, thus the rats died from minor infections.
In another study, researchers tested what effect “control” has on stress. Two groups were observed. Both groups are exposed to distraction noise while performing tasks that demanded concentration. One group had a “control button” that would block out the noise if they so desired. The productivity of the group with the control button was as expected; it was remarkably higher than the group without the control button. It is interesting to note that no one pushed the control button , but just knowing it was there made all the difference in their performance.
Fight vs. Flight Response
At the beginning of time, cavemen experienced the fight or flight syndrome. When under attack, they would respond with either fight, hitting and defending with adrenalin, or flight, running away from the threat.
Today, we may stand at a podium to give a speech and have immense stress. Since it is not appropriate to start screaming or running out of the room, we stand there with all the blood draining out of our brains and extremities. It is hard to think clearly and our legs feel like Jell-O.
Our bodies can handle fight or flight the old fashioned way by hitting or running away, but a fly buzzing around our head all evening is more than we can usually take. It seems that our body’s natural response has no sense of humor.
Natural Responses to Stress
Some of the natural responses to stress are: thyroid hormone increases in the bloodstream, a shut-down of the entire digestive track, increase of cholesterol in the blood, racing heartbeat, blood thickens, skin pales and sweats and all five senses become acute.
Situations that aggravate your stress include bad genetics, insomnia, poor diet, obesity, unrealistic goals, tobacco and caffeine, wrong job, financial distress, and an unstable household.
Situations that help you handle stress are: good genetics, sense of humor, right diet, realistic goals, relaxation skills, enough sleep, planning ahead, financial security, and a stable home.
Handling Stress Constructively
Since we cannot control our genetics, we need to focus on what we do have control of and use it to our benefit.
Remember that positive stress pumps us up, helps us to look forward to things, and keeps us alive with purpose. Since we know that an appropriate amount of stress is wonderful and important to feel alive, the task is to learn how to balance and control stress to have such passion.
Stress is a communication from your body to your mind. Learn to shift your stress levels by controlling your thoughts. What is your stress trying to tell you?
- Identify whose issue the stress really belongs to.
- If the issue is yours, take care of it. Don’t let it sit and weigh you down.
- Are you just taking on someone else’s issue? If so, in your mind, send it back to them or give it to Santa.
- What is the meaning that you are making to this stress?
- Will it matter in 100 years?
- What can you do about it?
- What are you going to do about it?
- How about focus on something else?
Reduce your stress for the season by following some of these great tips. They will help you to shift “too much stress” into appropriately balanced stress for the season.
- Monitor your stress level. Be aware of where you are on a scale of 1-10.
- Take 2 minutes to sit back, let go and relax twice a day.
- Focus on who you really want to give gifts to this year rather than who you should give to. You don’t have to give so many presents!
- Take care of yourself by doing things that make you feel good. Then you will have more energy to help others.
- Write your feelings in your day planner so you can see them objectively.
- Talk it out. Sit on Santa’s lap and tell him your woes.
- Alternate from left brain to right brain activities. Go from balancing your checkbook to walking around the neighborhood and enjoy the lights. From construction work to reading a holiday murder thriller. From talking to people all day to helping your son with algebra. By doing this you remain in a constant state of stress but shift from right brain to left brain, to internal and then external stress.
- Cry and then laugh. A hearty, “Ho, Ho, Ho,” is always expressive.
- Stop and find what is funny about your stress. Then put on an elf hat and get through it with a little humor.
- Discover the limiting beliefs that are causing your stress. A small limiting belief can create tremendous amounts of stress. Once the belief is gone, so is the stress!
- Plan ahead and use time management. Go to the mall on Monday mornings when hardly anyone is there.
- Say “No” more often. It’s ok to tell your 16 year old, “No, you can’t have a Ferrari for Christmas.”
- Lighten up. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Enjoy the atmosphere of celebration that surrounds you!
- Sing really loud – or better yet – scream for fun while alone in the car.
Enjoy the “busyness” and all the things you get to do this month. Notice how much more you are accomplishing in your business. Focus on love and take your time to feel the joy of “presence” with those you care about this holiday season. Who knows? It may stick with you until next holiday season!
May you experience the JOY of stress this year!