ISSUE NO.16 | APRIL 2017
Rise to the Challenge
Break Free From Fear
The problem is not the existence of stressors, which cannot be avoided; stress is simply the brain's way of signaling that something is important. The problem--or perhaps the opportunity--is how we respond to this stress.
--The Book of Joy
We live in a day and age where overdrive is always on. We're constantly bombarded by information, our heads buried in our phones, screens consuming all of our free time, and everything from healthcare to what we eat is solved by a "quick-fix," because day-to-day life is go-go-go, I'll rest when I'm dead! Adrenaline courses through our veins from the minute the alarm goes off in the morning, and chronic, low-grade stress becomes the norm. I don't know about you, but the struggle is real!
We're told to practice yoga, meditate, pray, be mindful, go with the flow--all great things for our health and well-being, no doubt! I'm continually striving to work against my "Type A" tendencies and become more "chill," but is stress always a bad thing? I think there is an important distinction to be made between two very different kinds of stress--and there are two different ways to handle them!
1. The Daily Grind
Chronic, low-grade stress--that feeling of constantly racing against the clock, anxious, irritable, short-tempered, and on edge, that many of us experience on a daily basis--is the kind of stress that can most definitely be tempered down with relaxation techniques. Left unchecked, the buzz of continual stress can have negative impacts on our mental, emotional, and even physical health. I feel like I could go on and on describing this type of stress, because I struggle with it fairly regularly--and it's a daily practice to overcome it!
If we can learn to just...breathe...inhale for 5 seconds...exhale for 7 seconds...Come on, do that with me 5 times in a row, starting now!
See? How did that feel?
You don't need a yoga mat or any type of training...if we could all just be present enough to do that 5 times throughout every day, we'd be in a lot better shape! In fact, I'm going to challenge myself to do just that, and I challenge you to do the same!
The other type of stress is acute stress--the instances where we feel threatened. We're being chased by a dog that just broke free from his leash--RUN! A driver coming at us is looking down at their smartphone and veers over the center line--DODGE! Our adrenaline kicks in and shunts all of our blood from our brain to our extremities to aid us in fleeing to safety.
But are all fear-inducing, acute stress situations, anxious thoughts, and negative emotions to be avoided at all costs?
This type of stress also kicks in when we are about to give a presentation, perform in front of a crowd, skydive--take risks!
Fear is natural, anxiety is not a weakness, and stress is not a defect.
Threat vs. Challenge
The body's natural fight-or-flight response was designed to help us determine, in a short amount of time, whether a perceived threat to our safety need be fought off or escaped. The fact that the blood from our brains gets pushed to our extremities means more oomph to escape scary situations, but less oomph to make rational decisions. Sometimes I feel as if I've conditioned myself to default to the flight response far more often than I need to, so now when I encounter an acute stress situation, without a second of thought, my mind goes into flight-mode. Maybe you can relate. What is it that's causing us to flee?
...[We must] develop stress resilience. This involves turning what is called "threat stress," or the perception that a stressful event is a threat that will harm us, into what is called "challenge stress," or the perception that a stressful event is a challenge that will help us grow.
...the beating heart, the pulsing blood or tingling feeling in our hands and face, the rapid breathing...these are natural responses to stress and our body is just preparing to rise to the challenge.
Did you hear that? RISE TO THE CHALLENGE!
Who were you created to be? When we shy away from uncomfortable experiences and emotions, we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow and to blossom. On Sunday in church, our pastor described a sculptor with a vision, but all that lies before him is a giant rock. He sees in his mind the possibility for just how beautiful it could be. He slowly begins to chisel away--he makes mistakes, but continues. Little by little, until his masterpiece is fully formed--and it's beautiful!
We all have a shell that needs to be cracked; we all have areas of our lives that we're ashamed of, anxious, fearful, stressed, and worried about--areas of darkness. How can you begin to chisel away at your hardened exterior to let in the light? A leap of faith is in order!
Take more risks. Challenge yourself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable! We cannot expect to grow and take shape without facing stressful situations and emotions head on. By doing so, we are molding ourselves into the masterpieces we were created to be!
Cut down on the chronic, low-grade stress by being mindful and coming back to your breath. Take inventory of what's really important in your life and recognize what need not be stressed over.
Save your energy to invest in better assessing acute stress situations you're faced with. Ask yourself, is this truly a threat, or can I take it as a challenge?
Say yes instead of no.
Speak up instead of thinking quietly.
Jump in instead of holding back.
Rise to the challenge!
*Quotes taken from a new book I've been reading called, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness In A Changing World.
Sweaty Palms, Racing Heart, Rise To The Challenge!
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