Hands up if you don’t routinely experience bat-shit crazy stress on a daily basis. Mm, not many. Let’s face it; stress is here to stay. It’s become modern mankind’s constant companion. (And not in the wholesome way that Tonto was for the Lone Ranger.) In fact, it’s so prevalent today that those of us offering stress management programmes in the business world don’t talk about “work-life balance” anymore. These days work is life and vice versa. Fact, Kimosabi.
If this is our starting point, how’s it possible to truly enjoy our lives? Well, my take on the solution is simple. (Note, I said “simple”, not “easy”.) When I sell my stress “management” services to companies, I package it as a stress “resilience” programme. In other words, I help clients build the capacity to withstand a very pervasive and health-damaging emotional, physical and mental state.
There are three distinct areas we all need to consider if we’re looking to live beyond our middle-aged years with a shiny coat and a wag in our tails.
Change is hard
Firstly, understand that change is bloody hard. Personally, I like to educate clients about how their bodies and brains work. This helps them reach a fuller understanding of why change is difficult. With this understanding it’s easier to stop applying morals to the matter (“I’ve got no will power”, “I lack self-discipline”, “I’m so lazy”). Morals just make us feel crappy about ourselves. To be clear, the brain will simply fight change until it’s practiced so often that it’s forced to change its own neurology. So stop playing the blame game and just get on with it.
Find the leverage
Secondly, we need to find the leverage that allows us to relieve some of the daily pressure. When we feel we have some control over our lives, less destructive stress hormones are produced by the body. This allows us to slowly negate the damage that negative stress hormones have on our health. Some simple examples of leverage could be asking our kids to make their own school lunches. Or creating a schedule for our partner/spouse and/or teenage kids to cook during the week. Or forgoing gym training and – instead – moving regularly throughout the day. These basic changes free up some time and allow for extra sleep, or relaxation, or the chance to do something fun.
Finally, it’s really important to build resilience to stress. Our bodies are like the proverbial camel and the lifestyle habits we have are the straws on its back. To keep the camel in good health we need to consider each straw to determine if it’s affecting the camel positively or negatively. These straws comprise diet, Vit D levels, sleep quality, hydration, movement, exercise, breathing technique, and more. The idea is to manage the straws we can work with, and not stress about those we can’t.
Overall, our capacity to manage the stress in our lives, and to remain alive (and in good health) while we do it, depends on how successful we are with the above. Find the leverage to change things; recognise that this might be hard; and develop the strength to withstand the impact of stress.