Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Simple Lesson About STRESS

An old college friend dropped me an email last night with the following story. It struck a chord with me and thought it might strike the same chord with you.

A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?'... She fooled them all .... "How heavy is this glass of water?" she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. To 20 oz.

She replied , "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.

If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night.... Pick them up tomorrow."

You Are Not Alone

Everyone has some stress in life. Actually, doctors say that a certain amount of stress is good for everyone. It keeps us on our toes. It keeps us sharp. It motivates us to take necessary actions and accomplish things that need to be done. But, there is a big difference between that "certain amount of stress" and living in a constantly stressful world where there is always several things on your shoulders and eating away at you.

I like the example of the glass of water the young woman used in her illustration in this story. I have chosen to live free and one of the things I wanted to be free of was the stress I allowed myself to live under for all of my adult life until I began to make significant changes to my lifestyle. There is a good chance you are either still living under all that stress or you remember what it was like and how it could consume you.

We have personal stresses, family stresses, financial stresses, job or business stresses and stresses that aren't yours, but are laid on you by others so you can share their misery. Of course, the reality is that most of our stress is self-imposed. What I mean by that is simply this. We choose to be under stress or accept other people's stress.

Stress often involves fear and worry. If you've read enough self-help, personal development books you've probably read that fear is defined as "False Expectations Appearing Real." If you've never heard that before, you can Google it and find a lot of reading material about "fear."

Worry goes hand in hand with fear and results in stress. In fact, most things people worry about never actually happen. When something does happen it's seldom even close to the consequence the subject of the worry expected. And, in the very, very small percentage of the time when something truly catastrophic happens, there is seldom ever any amount of worrying that could have prevented the outcome. Worry is actually the main component of generalized anxiety disorder, which is a serious mental illness that manifests in any number of physical symptoms and can actually disable individuals. Approximately 7 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the disorder and there are probably a few times that many who have not been diagnosed.

Here's the important thing to think about. If you've made a choice to adopt a "living free" lifestyle, then you should automatically be releasing much of the stress (and fears and worries) you lived with before you made the lifestyle change. If, however, you still are carrying albatrosses around your neck and the weight of the world on your shoulders, you have some serious work to do, yet. You may even want to schedule an appointment with your primary doctor and possibly a clinical psychologist who specializes in stress and stress reduction.

Life Is Short

Let's face it! Life is short! Everyone, yes, including you, were born with a terminal disease. We're all going to die. Now, there are lots of things that can contribute to and cause premature death including accidents of all kinds, diseases of all kinds and STRESS (with its accompanying fear and worry).

Accidents happen and we all hope we won't be the victim of an accident. But, letting this possibility stress you out and cause you to spend your priceless time fearing everything that might result in an action and worrying about it, may actually accelerate your demise from health issues caused by the stress.

The same is true of diseases. No one wants to hear his or her doctor tell you have some form of cancer or coronary disease or any other kind of disease for that matter. So, instead of allowing stress (worry and fear) to control major parts of your life, why not be preemptive. Learn what you need to do at the various stages of life to maintain a healthy body and mind. Don't stress about what might happen, enjoy the health you have and keep yourself healthy (you'll also be happier).

Of course, there is the very small percentage of people who will find out at the 11th hour that they have Stage 4 of some form of cancer or they have a 95% blockage of a major artery or an abdominal aneurysm or something else and it's too late to do anything about it. That is, unfortunately, the luck of the draw. It won't help to spend your time worrying about death, that's going to happen. If you're fortunate enough to know you have three or six months or a year, then having an up to date "Life List" (or Bucket List if you want to be negative about it) is the best possible thing. Focus on that list and start experiencing everything you can on the list immediately. It's actually been documented that people with a list and who attack their list aggressively rather than worrying about the inevitable, will extend their lives.

The one thing you do have the most control over is Stress (and the accompanying fear and worry), so why choose to let stress control your life? Here's a reality. For most of us who have lived an active, busy, hectic occupational life and family life, we've been living under massive stress most of our life and have simply adjusted to it and accepted it as a way of life. Making the choice of letting go of your past life and adopting a lifestyle of freedom may actually be more stressful than your previous stressful lifestyle of the past 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years. It was that way for me. There have only been a few super stressful times in my life (the rest of my stress was just the daily, accepted, constant stress). One of those super stressful times and, perhaps, the most stressful, was when I made the transition from the lifestyle I'd led for about 40 years to my lifestyle of living free.

Reducing Stress Is Stressful

It was a very difficult, challenging and, yes, I'll use the word, stressful experience. And, it's not that four and a half years later I'm without all stress. However, as I've told people, my financial overhead reduced by 80% when I made the transition. I no longer had a house and property on my back. I didn't have all the stuff to warehouse and pay insurance for. I simply figured out what I needed to maintain, like health insurance, vehicle insurance, minimal clothes, etc. and that's all I had to be concerned with. Pleased notice, I said "concerned with" not "worry about" or "stress over." I can honestly say my life is the most stress free it's ever been. I'm personally freer and happier than I've ever been and the only thing I question is why I didn't do it years earlier. I have no desire to ever return to the lifestyle I left. There is absolutely nothing appealing about it or that I miss. And, all the people who I've come in contact with and met who have made this same choice and have been living free (many of them considerably longer than me) have said the same thing.

So, how long can you hold that glass of water at arm's length in front of you before you'll begin realizing the negative impact the "stress" will have on your arm and shoulder? Will you worry you'll spill it? Do you fear that if you spill it you'll damage something? What is making you hold that glass out in front of you at arm's length? Do you have something to prove by it? Do you really care what other people think? You can put it down anytime you choose to. After all, who is the boss of your life? I sure hope you are. 

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