Damn I’m stressed… shoot. Did I just make it worse?

It really feels like I'm going to crack!!! Domenico via Compfight

Raise your hand if at some point this week you had a stressful day. There’s a good chance the entire Limitless community is raising a hand. There’s no shame in that. The truth is most of us have a lot going on. Trying to juggle a career, finances, being a husband or a wife, the little knuckle-heads (aka your kids), and fine time to fit in exercise, eat right, and have a little F.U.N can be pretty damn tough.

All that stress not only affects our health but our happiness and our wallet too. Ever notice how when one goes so to do the rest. If your health is not quite up to par it might affect your energy, weight, and well-being. Think back to a time when you were your fittest. Chances are it was also when you had your most confidence and where happiest as well.

Maybe you’re stressed out at your current gig and it is affecting your happiness. Which in-turn leads to a lack of motivation to get to the gym or some possible retail therapy. Oh come on, you know what I’m talking about. Shopping for no reason other than to cheer yourself up. I think it’s safe to say we’re all guilty as charged.

Well I’m not going to tell you how to prevent stress or how to cope with it. Truth be told stress isn’t going anywhere. You’ll never be able to avoid it or ride yourself of it completely. I’m going to cover the steps you can take to embrace it and make it work for you.

August 26th 2008 - Not Today Stephen Poff via Compfight

What exactly is stress?

I’d say you, me, and the barista over at the Starbucks you stopped by today all define stress a little differently. But for the most part stress comes down to having to have everything be perfect “right now.” This leads to emotional, physical, and mental fatigue.

Chronic stress is when the demands of life exceed our ability to cope with those demands. Career, finances, family life, and our health get the plus (+) in-between them and can add up to a schmorgesborg of health issues ranging from a simple increase in the common cold, to obesity, to heart disease, and even weakening our immune system and exacerbating arthritis, diseases like lupus, and job related injuries.

What does it cost you?

Some of those small every day inconveniences that you typically chalk up to normal issues you just have to tough out are related to stress and cost us in the back pocket. Headaches, back pain, insomnia, and heartburn might seem like insignificant issues but think about how often you buy Advil, sleep medication, icy-hot or other back pain remedies, or tum tum tum tum tummmmmms. Or maybe Mylanta is your drug of choice. Those small purchases each month can dramatically add up. Nearly 18 billion every year is spent on over the counter drug medications. Now some might argue that this keeps us from doctor visits. But the truth is most of these every day symptoms are curable for FREE.

Hunting for health care insurance is not only a pain in th a** but it’s also expensive even if you reduce your premiums to the lowest possible per month at the risk of paying more in the event of an actual visit as JD points out here. Even if you find yourself a low premium those numbers can go up in a heart beat at the risk of weight gain, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. All can be contributed to high levels of chronic stress.

At what stage of suffering do you address the problem? For some it is later rather than sooner and the easy way out is by popping pills. Unfortunately that just leads to increased dosages and more money spent as our bodies become adapted to them. Instead of treating the symptoms lets start treating the cause. You can drop ice cubes one by one in a boiling pot of water or you can turn of the flame. Which do you prefer?

Not only does stress affect our physical health but it also affects us mentally. Stress often leads to a negative mindset, a pessimistic attitude, low energy, and the consistent view as life as a struggle versus life as a beautiful journey full of wonder, excitement, and joy. Does it feel like you are constantly dealing with difficult people, nothing seems to be going right, and you find yourself always playing the victim? This is all stress related.

Relationships get crushed as well. The lack of energy and enthusiasm after a long grueling day leads to a lack of communication and sex drive…. yeah, sex drive. I said it.

Not to harp on money but I feel it’s fitting. Common relief is found in retail therapy as mentioned above. Purchasing items for the sake of the purchase, hoping the new items will provide some temporary relief and happiness from a stress filled week. Alcohol, tobacco, beauty treatments, and drugs all provide short-term relief for a long-term problem. They also provide for a much lighter bank account.

Good Stress versus Bad Stress and how to deal.

It’s safe to say that anxiety, depression, and disease are all negative consequences of stress. However, lets not just slap stress with a bad rap and call it a day. Certain stress provides us with positive ramifications. Such as the stress we place on our bodies when we exercise. The breaking down and repairing of muscle is a positive stressors that we put ourselves through. One that fights depression and facilities muscle growth which leads to a faster metabolism and weight loss. Sexy body equals more confidence, which equals getting more sh*t done effectively.

The traditional approach to stress management is just that. To manage it. To do your best to avoid it or to some how try to ignore it, avoid it,  or dull its effects. Yoga sessions, messages, a cold beer with the buds, or short little vacations are all short-term temporary solutions. Sure they may help to dull the side effects stress have on our body for the short-term but to deal with stress effectively you need to address it in the long-term as well.

The Best Policy... thewoodenshoes via Compfight

The only two facts you need to understand about stress to demolish it

It’s a pain in the a**
You can’t avoid it completely.

The main issue is that you can not avoid it completely. Stress will always be apart of your life whether you like it or not. If you care about your kids, relationships, health, career, or finances the odds are at some point you are going to want to pull your hair out from stress.

Since we can not ever avoid it we should practice it. But how?

Step 1: Realize that there are external events and actions that are out of your control. This includes your weight on the scale, the stock market, actions and attitudes of others, the idiot on the freeway that cut you off and gave you the finger, your kid being sent to the principles office for taking the class hamster out of its cage, or the project your working on having its deadline being bummed up, to say….. an hour from now.

The only thing you can control is your attitude and reaction to these events. Except each of them as they come and ask yourself what the worst case scenario of this event is? How likely is that worst case scenario? What steps can I take right NOW that help to fix this situation?

Step 2: Expose yourself to that which stresses you out the most. There is a form of behavioral therapy in which those with certain fears are gradually exposed to it in order to rid themselves of the fear. For example, if someone is afraid of heights they may start by watching videos or looking at pictures that show people standing on elevated objects. Next they themselves might  stand on a two by four a couple of inches off the ground. After they get comfortable with that they would try standing on a chair. Then the kitchen table. Next a roof top. Before you know it they’re on the side of a bridge getting ready to bungee jump.

The concept is very slow and gradual exposure to the stress stimulus over time so that you are able to build up a resistance. Julian Smith does an excellent job of outlining this in his book Flinch. He uses a few exercises like taking cold showers as an example. So if money issues or not having enough stress you out try exposing yourself to the stimulus very slowly. If you found yourself with less money coming in what would happen? Maybe you would have to cancel the cable, or the gym membership and start working out at home. Next maybe canceling those weekly messages, or happy hour with friends. The key is to do it slowly. You’ll soon find that what you fear most and stresses you out really is not so bad.

When it’s all said and done most of what you stress out about is out of your control. The key is to focus on the things you can control like our behaviors, attitude, and response. Now when I feel my heart beat speeding up, sweat on the brow, or butterflies in the stomach I ask myself what is it exactly that scares me about this situation and how likely is it that it occurs? Then…. what the hell am I going to do about it.

So, what’s stressing you out? What are you going to do about it?

Live limitless,