This topic comes on the heels of last week’s blog post relating to the hormone cortisol. If we minimize stress, we are going to minimalize cortisol. And, if we are able to modulate cortisol, it will have a Goldilocks effect on us – not too much, not too little, just right. Just like everything in life, the dose makes the poison.
To help you with this, I want you to take out a piece of blank paper and do a little exercise for me. It won’t take long, so please do this.
Make three columns. The three headings to put on the columns are; Physical, Biochemical, and Mental-Emotional. Now write down all the stresses you experience under each column. Examples of Physical stressors are plantar fasciitis, cold/flu, low back pain, too much sitting, too much exercise/movement, poor sleep quality, and so on. Examples of Biochemical stressors are poor nutrition (remember, think of vitamins and nutrients as the sparkplugs that allow enzymes to complete the necessary chemical reactions, which will in turn allow the body to run smoothly and efficiently), poor air quality, substance abuse, and drug side effects (yes, this includes excess coffee and sugar). Mental-Emotional stressors are pretty straight forward. These are the stresses that come to our mind when we think of stress in the traditional way. Examples would be poor marriage/relationships, loneliness, difficult co-worker, racism, social media, political upheaval, type A ‘no pain, no gain’ attitude, ADHD, perfectionism, etc. Oh, and just in case you are wondering…you can write COVID under all three headings … yeah, nice. It is such a gem.
So, here comes the fun part. Cross out all the stresses you cannot control. Why? Because now you don’t have to think about or deal with them. You cannot control them. It is a waste of your valuable time and mental energy to think about them. This should help you a lot, because now you can approach the remaining stressors one by one in a methodical way. Start this by tackling the one that requires the least effort to make change happen. If you feel energized by this project and want to choose one from each category – go for it! Tip: Perhaps there is something you can add to your regimen that hits all three categories? If you discover that – let me know.
“Cross out all the stresses you cannot control“
Now, what would this exercise look like on paper? You would now scan the stressors, pick the lowest hanging fruit and take a nibble from it. A simple example would be to, 1) set a timer on your watch or phone alert on the hour that prompts you to stand up stretch or walk around house, 2) order take-out or limit the drive thru runs ONE less time a week, 3) write out three things your grateful for, or just say it in your head before getting out of bed in the morning.
Now, how easy is that? The examples are endless. May I also note, it is not always subtractive as you can see. More often it is additive. You can add behaviours or thoughts to reduce stress rather than take away actions. Smiling at the cashier and asking how they are doing will put a smile on their face. I know you cannot physically see the corners of their mouths lifting, but you can see it in their eyes – and look at them in the eyes when you ask it. Buy a coffee for the person behind you in the Starbucks line-up. By the way – this happened to me one time – and I couldn’t believe it – I was over the moon thrilled! How one simple gesture can make or break your day is amazing.
Which brings me to the topic of our perceptions towards Covid-19. We are all in it together. I know you see this posted all over – but it is so true. So rather than think about ‘how our Christmas may suck’, think about how this is ONE Christmas that will be different than the others. Not good, not bad, but different. That is the simple truth.
I am writing this post on my daughter’s 20th birthday. With wrapping paper and cards being non-essential goods, I used Kraft paper to wrap the gifts and made homemade cards – and all seems so much more meaningful.
Only after completing the preparation in this way did I realize how much more meaningful it was. My point is, don’t fret about ‘how things are going to be different’ – because you will the find yourself at a place where you are worrying about things that are, 1) in the future and 2) you cannot control. Therefore, according to our exercise above – it is not allowed on the list.
The perception of stress is the game changer here. When you see others looking ‘chill’, don’t think that their lives are a walk in the park. It isn’t. It is how they perceive stress that makes them different from you. Joe Cool over there has put in the effort by making the list I noted above and took action towards it. And with that…peace out.