To me, living each day as if it’s your last is total BS.
The social media posts of my friends would have me believe that I’m the most boring, unproductive and sterile person on the planet.
I’ve stopped following The Rock on Instagram months ago. His jet setting, workout blasting, film shooting and new baby arse-wiping schedule just left me emotionally baron.
Clearly I’m not living life on the edge and (apparently) taking up too much room.
But according to Dr Heidi Hanna, author of Stressaholic it’s time we stopped ‘hacking’ and started healing.
“If you know how to manage it, stress is a gift – it’s simply your body letting you know you’re off track..think of it as your internal GPS flashing you a warning light”, Hanna says.
“You can ignore it and end up in a stress mess or your can address it and appreciate the fact that it’s trying to help you. Stress becomes fuel for positive change – this is the mastery over stress. You don’t get rid of stress – you embrace it and use it for what it’s designed to do.”
Easier said than done. But, I do believe the good Doctor is onto something.
You see, we’re not designed to work a 16-hour-day sparked by coffee and calmed by a glass of red, all the while being President of the local Lions Club, coach of your son’s under 10’s soccer team, and stand-in hand model for your wife’s Tupperware parties.
Burning bright will surely lead to burning out.
Stress is real and constant for many of us. It’s our ‘rent’ for living a hyper-connected and over-delivering life. However, the key to living with stress is not to repel it but to develop skills to live with it.
You see it turns out 20% of us are genetically ‘stress sensitive’ (SS). If you were raised in-utero while your mother was experiencing a particularly long and stressful event (i.e pregnancy or divorce) chances are you carry this trait.
Stress hormones in the mother’s body are transferred to the developing brain of the baby. This makes sense from a survival perspective because it’s preparing for the chaos ahead – the baby needs to become sensitive to potential threats to protect itself.
During Early Man this sensitivity was used to protect the species – if something bad was about to happen and someone in the tribe was sensitive enough to detect it – it usually meant survival.
Fast forward to our dialed in, flat-out, hyped-up and dumbed-down modern life, this sensitivity can be both a blessing and a curse. You see, by knowing the stressful event around the corner, us stress sensitive folk can prepare for it and potentially down-regulate the situation to a ‘no big deal status’ before it hits us head-on. The problem is SS, over time, can lead to anxiety, addiction, substance abuse and depression. For younger adults, SS presents as ADHD or a person ‘looking for attention’.
Here are three ways we can manage our stress response:
1. Change your physiology to change your psychology: Breathe, work out, walk, shower, bath, squeeze a ball, laugh, play with your pet, meditate. When engaging in these activities (and there are lots more) our body has little option but to respond by activating powerful pleasure centres in the brain to release serotonin and dopamine which douses our stress response.
2. Oscillate: The body is designed for back and forth, not flat line. We cannot be constantly living with noise, movement and mental and physical stimulation. We thrive under periods of full engagement mixed with moments of disengagement. Spend then replenish is key. Work then rest, eat then fast – this is the way we are meant to live.
3. Set Boundaries: Much of our stress originates from our inability to set appropriate and safe boundaries for ourselves. Whether it be taking work home, having toxic relationships or dealing with addictions. Our ability to discern what we will or wont tolerate in our lives becomes crucial.
4. Serve others: By serving others (volunteering, helping someone move house, participate in a working bee) you make ‘we’ happy as apposed to ‘me’ happy and the effect is far-reaching. It doesn’t have to be huge thing – for example how can you bring happiness and positivity to the barista at the Coffee Club? Smile when you make your order, or say ‘Thanks so much’. Try it…it will chemically change your brain for happiness, guaranteed.
Try a few of these techniques to see how your life can weather the stressful storm to have the wind at your back instead of in your face.
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