GET A GRIP!
“Stress is any opposing force that
potentially limits forward progress.”
Terry Lyles, Ph.D., Navigating Life Storms
Text messaging cell phones and computers means more demands for instant responses in communication. The Web raises the bar for marketing excellence and puts constant pressure on business to grab the customer before the competition. The flattening of the world pushes industry to operate 24/7. Walking into almost any office today is like being trapped on a treadmill with no off switch.
Then, there is parenting with the constant pressure of racing to sports practices or games, piano lessons or play dates.
And, there is the ever-present worry about rising gas prices, inflation in general, terrorist attacks, identity theft and war.
On top of it all there is the unexpected ‘whacks’ of life – illness, accidents, loss, divorce and financial reversal.
Oh, and then there is living the rest of your life.
What does this plethora of activity create? Big time STRESS.
Is it necessary? You bet it is. Without stress we would wither, shrink, atrophy and – die. We do need stress. Stress is a part of life – unavoidable. Our attempts to run from it, get rid, evade or eliminate it are – futile.
My grandma James used to make many of her meals in a pressure cooker. She explained to me that unless the pressure was periodically released, the pot would explode. That worried me terribly and, as it relates to stress, should really concern you.
Here’s what’s happening to a great majority of people in the world today. They don’t know how or when to release the steam that stress builds up. They’re not only stressed out, they’re burned out and they have no idea what to do about it.
Stress has devoured lives like a rampaging killer shark through mental, emotional, spiritual and physical illness. It is widely known that the damage from stress has cost businesses billion of dollars in lost revenue and productivity through both accidents and sickness. According to the American Institute of Stress, the vast majority of visits to the doctor are directly related to stress – regardless of the specific complaint.
What can be done? To answer that question we must first understand that stress is really not the problem and paradoxically, that this stress stuff is for real. As Terry Lyles writes in The Secret to Negotiating Life’s Storms, “The problem is our inability to process and utilize stress constructively…Properly utilized; stress can propel us toward success in every area of life. Stress is meant to define us, not defeat us…”
The major issue is that we have been programmed, and have allowed ourselves to be programmed, with one very destructive false belief, that more, faster and harder makes us better. “Don’t stop! Keep Going! Beat the Competition! Win the Race!” is the battle cry that never ends.
Do you know what happens to people when they buy into this belief? They break. They break mentally, becoming unfocused, listless, unable to sleep, scattered and prone to making mistakes. They break physically. Their immune system weakens. They lose their energy and become susceptible to every illness floating around. Their blood pressure rises. They break emotionally, blowing their tops at the most inappropriate of times, backbiting and sabotaging themselves and others. They break spiritually and lose site of their higher purpose and relationship to others.
What’s the answer? The answer is to develop and work a strategy that will give you the greatest edge to live the most creative, productive and healthy life possible. I’m going to give you five tips that will help you create an absolutely fool proof system to use your stress in the best way possible.
1. Begin your day with a 2-5 minute rehearsal. When you’re living your life at full tilt, you can’t see the life you are living. By rehearsing your day, you prepare yourself. You may not be able to predict what can happen but you can know where and on what you want to focus. What are your priorities for the day? What mental and physical preparations do you have to make?
By doing a brief mental rehearsal of your day you form a mindset and jumpstart your subconscious for problem solving.
2. Learn to let the steam off. No human being can go full throttle on a consistent basis and maintain excellence, not a professional athlete, computer programmer, performer, salesperson, CEO, parent or you. The fact is, if you go full blast for over one and half hours, you put yourself in serious jeopardy. That is how your body works. So, if you want to maintain peak performance, you must take a mini break every ninety minutes – period. Get up, move around, and stretch. Better yet, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Also, when you feel, frustrated, sad, fearful or angry, take a break and shift your focus.
3. Snack or eat a small meal every three hours. This is the way to keep your body operating in the most efficient way possible and, in turn, will affect your energy in a positive way. Big meals take a great deal of time to digest and saps energy while your body is metabolizing the food. You may believe that skipping breakfast or eating three square meals a day is best for your body type. That’s a myth.
4. Drink plenty of liquids. Hydrate on a consistent basis throughout the day. Most of us do not drink enough water and it affects our ability to perform in every area of life. Of course you can drink other beverages but make sure to include some water. Try it for a couple of days and you will notice a major difference.
5. Focus on what you can change and let go of the rest. I do believe that we spend 90% of our energy trying to change the 10% of life and stuff that cannot be changed and that just pumps up the pressure in the cooker. Plus, it wastes a lot of our limited energy. We will have to pay our taxes; the sun will set in the west; you will age; you will have to deal with people; you will have to pay your water and electric bill – if you want water and electricity. If you have a question as to what you can control, write your issue down and then write an action step. If you can’t write an action step, let it go. Remember, life is going to do what it does. You always have the choice of how you respond to life.
These five tips will change the quality of your life and, yes, it does require commitment and action. You don’t have to do any work to stay as stressed as you are but the work you do put in will come back many fold.
James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best-selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach.