- Stress -
(The hidden beast we must beat)
A type-A woman I know once told me that she’s always after her family to 'quit smoking, eat right, exercise, don’t drink too much and, for goodness sake, slow down and drive safely.'
This woman is no hypocrite; for all the years I’ve known her, she’s always practiced what she preaches.
But on this particular day, she must have needed some comfort, advice or both, because in her next breath she blurted out, “While I gripe at them for all of their issues, ya know what’s gonna kill me, Candace? STRESS! Stress is going to do me in!”
I’ve known this woman literally my whole life, and though she’s since moved away, most of what I recall when I think of her is her hassled and harried demeanor.
Despite all of her good habits, she always appeared to be on the run. It was as though she had convinced herself that without her utmost attention to each and every detail to everything—not only in her own life, but everyone else’s, too—the world would soon come to an end.
This woman is the one who taught me that stress can be contagious, because just about every time I’d leave her presence, I’d feel as though I could use a massage and a stiff drink!
So, what is the big deal about stress? I mean, it’s not like it’s a disease or anything, right?
Well, let me start by saying that if you or someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed, overworked, on edge, anxious or depressed, stress has invaded your personal space. It’s time to start mapping out the steps you’re going to take to evict this joy-killing sludge from your life.
Stress can be a hard house-guest to oust. Left unattended, stress becomes an angry tenant that can and WILL unleash its ugly wrath, eventually doing so much damage that no security deposit could ever cover the condition of the house it inhabited.
So what do we do when stress comes knocking at our door—run and hide behind the shower curtain? Ever seen Psycho? Not a good choice, but hiding your head in the sand will do you just about as much good, especially when in reality there’s no need to hide.
You’ve heard it before, but it’s so profound. Fear is the only thing we have to fear, and if we run when change comes a-calling, fear wins, we lose and life becomes stressful. But what if we look deep inside, find the tools we need to embrace the situation and instead of running we turn and stare it down until “it” whimpers away into the distance.
Each and every one of us has been gifted with our own, internal self-preservation tool kit. Inside this precious, priceless gift, you’ll find the Holy Grail of human emotions that wants us to react when we are in danger, believe harm is imminent or are out of balance and close to health-harming overload.
Fear, intuition, and stress are the gifts hidden inside this God-given tool kit, and if we listen when they warn us that danger is near, they can and will save our lives.
We all have to face our own set of challenges in life. It’s a part of the human experience, and while it’s never a rose garden, it is no doubt when we’ll achieve the most growth—if we allow it, that is.
It’s when these life changes occur that these reactions—be they fear, innate intuition or stress—call out to us. That’s when we are supposed to stop, look around, take stock and decide if the reaction is appropriate.
The stress reaction (like all the reactive tools in our self-preservation kit) is useful and necessary, even as it warns us that something is wrong and/or unbalanced and needs our attention. A stress reaction can be helpful—protective even—if attended to.
So, my intention is to gain your attention to the importance of listening to your body’s warning signs. If you do, you can launch a plan of attack and beat this beast back into its cave.
There are things you can do to fight back and set the right traps that will quickly and swiftly snap the neck of this joy-snatching, health-hacking, little rodent.
If I seem more than a little “scary serious” here, you’re right. One thing in this life you can count on is things will change, which can trigger a stress response. Simply stated, stress is the body’s reaction to any change that will require an adjustment in your life.
What kind of life changes are we talking here: A) physical, B) mental, C) emotional, or D) all of the above? (When I was in school and faced a multiple-choice format, I always shot for “all of the above.” I like to cover my bases; either that or I hadn’t studied) Well, in this case, it is D.
Interestingly enough, a stress response is not always from what we would consider difficult or disastrous types of situations.
When I was in my early 20s, I took a written stress assessment as things were “really hitting the fan” in my life and I was curious as to where I might land on the stress scale.
I was surprised to find things like moving, having a baby, getting married, etc., fell into the same category as death of a loved one, losing a job and divorce. Your body can’t determine good adjustment reactions from difficult ones when they are piled up on you so high and heavy that you just can’t seem to get out from under them.
In fact, the bigger issue really is how much are you carrying and for how long. The body and brain are well-crafted to handle stress both physical and mental, but when there seems to be no relief in sight, this actually has a name… DISTRESS!
(If you feel Distress is circling, seeking a way inside... take heart. In part II, you'll Learn the skills necessary to wage a wise battle and win the War on Stress, once and for all; From The Inside-Out!)
Until next time, my friends...
live well and POWER ON,
Candace Grasso is CEO and Founder of Fit Is It, Inc. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she holds six national certifications, including Nutrition Specialist with The American Academy of Sports Dietitians and Nutritionists. As a professional athlete, she has been honored by PowerBar with membership to the prestigious Team Elite. She has traveled the world coaching, teaching and motivating others, and can be seen on WBAL, Baltimore’s NBC television affiliate, as a weekend fitness expert. Visit www.fitisitcardio.com to learn how you can download her new Cardio Fit workouts, including stress management with her Stretch Fit & Relax series featured on 'Itunes'.