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:

  1. Emotional
  2. Rational
  3. Physiologic

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.

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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:

  1. Commit to 15 minutes of quiet (technology free) time each morning to affirm your goals.
  2. Begin your day with gratitude for your accomplishments and the richness of your life.
  3. 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:

  1. Answer this question and write it down: “Who am I?”
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Eat breakfast and avoid simple carbohydrates in that breakfast.
  2. Exercise daily. Exercise within the limits of what you can safely do, but do something every day.
  3. Do not use any electronics (TV, phone, tablet, computer, etc.) for one hour before you go to sleep.
  4. Stay well hydrated all day long. Coffee, tea and caffeinated drinks don’t count.
  5. 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!

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Why Do You Stress Yourself Out? And How Can You Stop?

Truth and Our Packages of Deception

A deception that elevates us is dearer than a host of low truths.

                                                                  –  Marina Tsvetaeva

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The Truth. What an elusive thing.

Especially in this election season, it seems that we’re surrounded by evidence of the constant lies and deceptions in which we live. Which side of the debate resonates with you may depend less on your desire to know the truth than it does on which package of deceptions you yearn to embrace. It’s a visceral thing. What does your world look like and how badly do you want to make that vision a reality?

How determined are you to vote? How ready are you to, “let things happen the way they will”? And how ready are you to skip voting and say, “They’re all the same, so what difference does it make?” Is one set of deception the same as another? Do they exist at the same level? No, they’re not the same and the consequences of accepting either of the two dominant packages of deception are, and will be, quite different.

Of course there are consequences to empowering either perspective but those consequences are not equal. We are led to believe they exist at an equal level but they don’t. The consequences are not equal because the level of organization of the deceptions are not equal. The emotional response is also not equal because the level of organization of the emotional attachment is not equal. The percentage of public space occupied by the two major party candidates is not equal because they embody different levels of emotional identification.

But to understand this we have to go back a few steps and look at the truth of both packages. We have to look at how we each understand and feel about the package with which we identify with, and the package with which we disagree. But it’s not always so clear cut and when something is not clear cut, our emotional self generally wins the day over our rational stance.

The Republican package under Donald Trump appears to be organized at the nationalist, racial and populist level. As a Nationalist movement it conveys a sense of having lost our focus as the great power of the world with the obligations and rights of preeminence that correspond to that. It is racial in response to the feeling of declining white hegemony with immigration control as a foundational position and illegal immigration control as the foundational deception. The understood goal being one of racial disempowerment of non-European citizens, be they judges of Mexican heritage, or anyone who comes from “countries associated with terrorism”. It is populist in the sense that it draws its support largely from those who identify with a self-reliant, independent, white, and traditionally patriarchal narrative. Its deception being that this narrative was carved out of the physical, social and political marginalization of large segments of the population of this land over the preceding centuries. It rightfully understands the threats to its world-view posed by feminists, LGBT individuals and the globalization of commerce, ideas and attitudes.

The Democratic package under Hillary Clinton appears to be organized at the International, elite and expedient levels. It sees the United States of America as simply one of any number of countries vying on the global stage. Where is the feeling of American exceptionalism that Kennedy or Roosevelt conveyed? Who is standing up for American while China and Russia stand up for themselves? How can we be great when we just see ourselves as one of many rather than the “Out of many, one” of E pluribus unum, a foundational definition since 1782? It is elite in the sense that it speaks above the average person, even to those it says it represents. It draws from a world of achieved privilege and exclusive access. It is shaded in secrecy, and like the initial attempts at health care payment revision (I won’t call it by its euphemism of “reform”), it is smoke and mirrors conducted from the comfortable space of closed doors and hidden emails. Its deception is that it cares while it lacks a heart. It throws bones at “the people” while relishing the power of position and private foundations. While Bill balanced that aspiration with his charisma and charm, Hillary finds it hard to bring herself low enough to express genuine empathy. Indignation will have to do. What’s left of America when you remove the heart, fallible as that may be? A convention of lawyers and bureaucrats deliberating on the most expedient option? How inspiring.

So we have four choices this Fall. Sitting it out is not participating so thanks for reading and goodbye. Voting third party is a message for the next election and essentially non-participation in this one except to send that message. See you later. Finally, if you’re going to be choosing between one of the two major party candidates, I offer you this. As unappealing as they both are, the level of deception, the distance from the truth, is not the same and your feelings may betray you if you simply do what you feel in your gut.other.

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While the debate may appear rational, the contest and the deception are emotional and the more adept emotional manipulator is the one who knows how to get attention and how to keep it on himself. While Clinton’s smoke screen is visible (servers and emails, closed-door sessions and whispers on tarmacs), Trump’s deception is hidden in clear site. His deception is the deception of trust, hidden in the “gift” of emotional release and replacement of “political correctness” with outright insult that would not be tolerated in any public business environment. It is the betrayed trust of contracts, agreements and treaty’s broken by those who think themselves above the other party to those “legal niceties”.

Faced with a choice between two elites who are each self-serving. I’m going with my head on this one and choosing the one who lacks the skill to manipulate me emotionally and does not seek to disenfranchise large numbers of my fellow citizens. We’ve seen the movie of populist emotional manipulation by a confident demagogue before. I don’t want a front row seat and even if you might like the beginning, I don’t think you’d like the ending.

The Two Ways of Being

There are really only two ways of being. Neither of them are wrong in and of themselves. Either of them can be destructive when they are substituted for the other.

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Welcome to the blog for The Man In The Mountain. I’m excited to be able to continue the conversation started in Book 1: Awakening. I’d like to invite you to a discussion about what awakening means. This blog will be a give-and-take about what really matters: the way we can inclusively think about the structure of our world. It’ll be a way to build a community around the critical concepts outlined in the book and I hope it will be a way for each of us to bring more thoughtful and engaged people into the conversation.

We are a uniquely powerful species. We have the ability (and the requirement) to build a world that is conceptual in nature and to inhabit it. This creates a split personality within each of us as participants in reality and creators of reality. That split echoes through the institutions we create and inhabit. The question we will return to again and again is this: Do we live and create intentionally?

The Man In The Mountain is really about living an intentional life and the consideration that goes into that intention. When you feel that things don’t make sense, you can react in one of two ways. You can accept that lack of insight and act from your current understanding of the world, or you can question your understanding of the world and arrive at a point where that event does make sense: Participation and Creation.

Why would you read The Man In The Mountain? Why would I care to share these thoughts with you?

Because our understanding about our conceptual world is getting re-negotiated, even as the structure of our physical world is being remolded. You can choose for that change to happen coherently and constructively. But in order to accomplish that you will need to act deliberately. The cost is high because, if you fail to do so, non-inclusive and limiting change will be imposed on us at a much higher cost. I believe this is the most important discussion that we can have and I believe now is the time to be having it.

Participation and Creation.

If you’ve ever looked into a microscope at some pond water, you know that you can only follow the drama going on in that drop when you learn to adjust the focus up and down. You can participate in the drama of that microscopic world as an observer and marvel at the hidden complexity. Or you can study the relationships between creatures and alter the environment to create new balances or imbalances. You can also choose to ignore the drop, only to come back later and find that it has dried up, leaving a world that has become flat and lifeless.

It’s the same for understanding the reality of our conceptual world. The creatures in that world are more than just the individuals who inhabit it. They are also the words and the concepts that we accept as defining it. But, they are not just those words and concepts we agree upon and accept. They are also those concepts and ways of thought that are intentionally or unintentionally rejected. Sometimes… that conceptual world drifts into the gray zone of acceptable ambiguity in the understanding of a word we thought we already knew.

The Man In The Mountain explores these many levels of misconception and unintentional construction and uses the neutral ground of systems theory to structure those conversations. Data-Information-Knowledge-Understanding-Wisdom and finally Awareness. Intention starts with Information and in our conceptual world that means words and the emotions that surround those words, inform them and wall them in.

A good place to begin might be with the word that all other words depend upon for relevance. Clarifying this one word can set us moving in the right direction or it can forever limit us in intentional movement. It is the word for life in action: to be.

But this one word actually means two very different things and  The Man In The Mountain is detailed in its exploration of being/Being.

being is the beginning and it is at the center of the end. being is emotionally honest and deeply present. being is fresh and unburdened. being is raw and alive and in the moment.

Being is the end and it allows the greatest range and depth of beginnings. Being is joyful. Being is full and considered, yet calm and accepting. Being is aware and broadly present.

Our failure to realize this distinction becomes our impediment to becoming increasingly aware of it. It is the journey between the two that life is made of and that journey can be well taken or it can be haphazard and chaotic. As individuals and as a people we appear to vacillate between both routes. We alternate between wanting structure and feeling smothered by it. We run toward the highs and lows of immediacy, then crawl away fatigued and depleted from a lack of perspective, insight and understanding.

We do this as individuals. We do this as families. We do this as nations and we are now doing this as a global community. What we are experiencing is the growing pain of worlds that were hidden from us because we have wanted them to be hidden. Our own pain is hard enough to bear. To bear the pain of others and then of other communities on top of that is almost maddening. So we turn down the volume and close ourselves off from all those voices and all that noise. And soon we find that we’ve created our own prisons.

We’ve removed the conditions for growing toward Being and we are too burdened for being in the moment. Our instinct is to run back to the familiar, whether that familiar place is childhood simplicity or the illusory simplicity of a bygone time, cultural or racial identification, nationalism, party loyalty or religious identity. In times of stress, primates prioritize inclusion.

We forget that this is also being. being can be scared and being can exclude reflexively. being can throw someone under the bus and… being can get you thrown under the bus. After all, the immediacy of being can have catastrophic highs and lows as well as manageable ones.

But only Being can allow you to see the complicated mess and see the way through that leads upward. Being owns the multitude of pains because Being is aware. It was aware before the chaos ensued and it remains aware. Being is you grown into what you have the potential to be. We can only grow up as a people when enough of us grow up in our own lives.

Now is the time. Now we have the opportunity to grow up or we will walk back down the ladder only to have our children’s children, or their children attempt the walk back up. Our ladder lies before us. Theirs will be constructed out of the debris of our failure. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. All you can do is to take the journey and to grow up. Become the awareness that is necessary. It is not easy but it’s the greatest challenge that any of us can assume and it has the greatest returns on investment.

The Man In The Mountain is an integrated outline for the structure of process as reflected in one journey. Yosh’s journey will reflect yours in many ways because we all move along the gradient of this same process toward Being. This blog will be an opportunity for us to continue a dialogue that The Man In The Mountain is written to evoke. It is an invitation to become part of the solution in an integrated, structured and joyful way.

Here’s to us… all of us!

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