Why Do You Stress Yourself Out?
And How Can You Stop?
Do you find yourself feeling stressed out more often than you used to feel? Do you get stuck in your stress? Is it hard to get yourself out? Do you feel less productive because of stress? Are you beginning to feel burned out?
Many of the executives, professionals and business owners we see at Physicians Total Wellness wrestle with the issue of stress. Their stress is unique to them and your stress is unique to you. A focus on specifics is necessary for rapid and sustained action. But there are common elements to all stress and there are initial steps that you can implement today to help you begin reducing the stress you may be experiencing. So let’s get to work.
To solve a problem, we first need to define the problem. What is stress? Stress is not that something bad is happening to you. Stress is that something you perceive as bad is happening to you AND that it shouldn’t be happening to you.
We can think of stress as having three different basic components but how they come together makes all the difference. Just as you can combine sugar, fat and starch to make desserts ranging from cookies to cake, and doughnuts to crisps, these three components of stress can combine in many ways. It helps to look at them separately but to understand that they influence and alter each other.
These three basic components of stress are:
In each of these areas you’ll find that you can start to do some work today. You don’t need to wait for tomorrow. If the work you do addresses the problem, great. Just keep at it. If it doesn’t suffice, then you’re best off working with a professional who can look into each of these area to individualize your action plan to your specific needs. Let’s take each of the three basic components of stress and outline action steps for you today.
Emotional contributors to stress have to do with the way you feel about situations and interpersonal encounters. Which situations do you fear? Are their personality types that just rub you the wrong way? How do you define yourself and your goals? Are those definitions in alignment with your social, professional, marital, familial and political environment? There are so many questions that might be relevant but our goal here is to outline action steps, so here are three:
- Commit to 15 minutes of quiet (technology free) time each morning to affirm your goals.
- Begin your day with gratitude for your accomplishments and the richness of your life.
- Finish each day with 15 minutes of self-reflection on your accomplishments of the day.
Emotional Intelligence requires a balance between acceptance and striving. To minimize stress, you might benefit from acknowledging how far you’ve come and feeling gratitude toward those who have been critical to your success. At the same time, affirming your striving as being in alignment with your larger goals can help focus your efforts on achieving what is important to you and what feels good, meaningful and rewarding.
Rational contributors to stress have to do with your perception of reality and how that conforms to accepted perceptions of reality. Neither of these two is static. Both are in constant flux and we vary in the degree of insight we each have in both of these areas. You may have more insight into one area than the other. You may be avoiding deeper insight into one or the other. You may have defined either area more concretely or you may be more fluid in your approach to either or both.
The Man In The Mountain is a good introduction to this part of the problem and I use it daily in my practice but what can you do about this area today? If you guessed I might suggest three things you could start with you’d be right:
- Answer this question and write it down: “Who am I?”
- Now do the same for this question: “What does my world look like?” You can answer this in as much depth as you’d like. “World” could mean your social world, your professional world, your relational world, your political world, your financial world, etc. You pick the depth of your inquiry.
- Now answer this: “What one thing will I change this week to bring these two realities into constructive alignment?”
Then, repeat this assignment every week and log your progress. If you need help, find a psychologist, coach or mentor who can assist you. You may find that this simple investment saves you years of time. The key is to start now.
Finally, there are physiologic contributors to stress. These relate to the physical functioning of your body. They can be hormonal and related to the quality of function of various organs, including your thyroid and adrenal glands. Hormone imbalance or deficiency can contribute to fatigue, loss of motivation, difficulty concentrating, brain fog or irritability and restlessness. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and co-factors may be present. Systemic inflammation often plays a role. And, to add insult to injury, both emotional and rational factors can create physiologic imbalance.
Physiologic factors can be the most challenging to assess because they often require medical testing. In our program that testing is required and addresses metabolic, hormonal, genetic, as well as dietary, allergic and inflammatory evaluations. But there are certain things you can do without testing that can have a dramatic impact on the physiologic factors contributing to your stress. Here are five (not just three this time) actions you can take today:
- Eat breakfast and avoid simple carbohydrates in that breakfast.
- Exercise daily. Exercise within the limits of what you can safely do, but do something every day.
- Do not use any electronics (TV, phone, tablet, computer, etc.) for one hour before you go to sleep.
- Stay well hydrated all day long. Coffee, tea and caffeinated drinks don’t count.
- Never sit for more than an hour at a time. If you sit at work, it’s best to stand up every 20 minutes if you can. Stand while you make that phone call or when you take a sip of water.
So there you have it. I hope this discussion helps you get off to a good start in reducing the stress you bring upon yourself. And remember, most often, stress is stress you bring upon yourself. Once you own that it becomes much easier to take the stress off. You may not have much ability to impact stressors that come at you from outside but you’ll never know how much is in your hands until you start to act. There’s no better time than today. In fact, there is no other time than today.
Good Luck and Be Well!