Here are some staggering statistics that will scare anyone into a yoga class:
-Chronic stress is the sixth leading cause of death (but can be a major contributing factor in the first five)
-Up to 90% of all doctor visits are stress related
-75% of Americans list work as a significant source of stress
-50% say that work productivity suffers due to stress
-High cortisol levels (the stress hormone) boost the amount of fat around the belly. Yep. Stress can even make you fat.
-Vaccines are less effective, wounds take longer to heal, and we are more prone to the common cold because of stress.
I don’t know about you but I am starting to stress out about being stressed.
The real question is: Is stress really the culprit, or how we manage stress?
Let me explain.
Stress isn’t a bad thing really, it’s just a thing. Our DNA is wired to protect us, and whether there is a physical threat or an emotional one, the result is the same. When we perceive ourselves as under attack, cortisol and adrenalin pump into our bloodstream. We perspire, our breathing becomes shallow, our pulse quickens, and our immune system, growth hormone and sex hormone suppress. This “flight or fight” reaction has saved us since the dawn of time from everything including stampeding dinosaurs to accidentally driving off a cliff.
Stress wasn’t designed to hurt us, it was meant to save us so we could move on with our lives. When a deer sees a lion, his body goes into a stress response which allows him to instinctively run away. As soon as he is out of danger, his body goes back to normal and he continues to graze. Short term stress can save our lives, chronic stress and end it.
Here is where the deer is smarter than we are. After the initial trigger, possibly being the lion’s dinner, he lets go of the situation and goes back to a normal, calm state. We humans tend to hold on and internalize our stress, never letting it go.
We end up either directing it inward, causing physical issues like ulcers, digestive problems and depression, or we can turn it outward lashing out at others or being reactive. Neither helps us become better versions of ourselves.
Unfortunately, life will continue to throw us curveballs. So how can we respond without falling apart? And why do some folks thrive on stress while others buckle under the pressure?
If we pull back and hover above our lives for just a moment, we may witness a paradigm shift in our understanding of stress.
Since emotional stress is far more common than a physical attack these days, let’s look at how we react. Some look at a stressful situation and think, “Oh My God, why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve (fill in the blank). It’s not fair!” They live their lives in sadness, reactive to the world instead of reflective to it.
Someone else will be in the same situation and think, “Is this a challenge or a threat? What can I learn from this situation that will make me stronger?”
The first time I was diagnosed with cancer, I did the first. By the third round, I started to think more like the latter and here is what I discovered:
[bctt tweet=”It’s not the stress that is killing us, it is how we perceive stress that is taking us down.”]
I put on a strong, happy face during my first bout with cancer, but inside I was the guest of honor at my own pity party. I fought the concept of my illness, fought the treatments, fought God, I fought until I was exhausted, taxing my already compromised body. The stress of the disease was almost worse than the actual disease itself. And when it was over, I continued to relive the experience in my mind, putting my body through the entire ordeal again and again.
It really sucked.
By the third diagnosis, I started to look at things differently. Although I definitely had my freak-out moments in the beginning; eventually, I saw illness as a teacher in a Masters’ class of learning. Instead of fighting this time I relaxed and took a birds eye view of what I was learning and how it was making me grow into a deeper, more compassionate being.
Stress can challenge, inspire, and teach us, but only if we see it as a learning lesson and not a threat. The feeling of a threat will cause us to spiral downward into Hell. The feeling of a challenge will empower us to grow with the attitude of, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.
We all have things that stress us out. See if you can find one that is causing pain in your life and see if you can turn it on its head to see it differently. Is there something there for you to learn? Can you grow from the experience?
I would love to hear one thing you can change from this process either in the comments below or tweet me @lisadouthitww. And if you know anyone who isn’t benefiting from their stress, please pass this along. There is some great anti-stress support in my private FaceBook Tribe. Join Here.
Deep breath. Life is a process and it’s all about the journey!
A little about me:
I love to write stuff that makes you laugh, sometimes cry, but always makes you think. I released my first book Wellness Warrior – Fighting for Life in Fabulous Shoes to share the pearls of wisdom I learned while battling four different cancers and two autoimmune diseases (that was fun. Not!). I’m thinking of you when I write so it’s kind of like we are chatting over coffee. My passion is to learn how to be the best version of ourselves, now matter where we are in our healing journey. My favorite part is letting as many people as possible know that there is help out there and I totally get where they are. Have a friend that is going through a little something? You can send them my e-book for free at bit.ly/warriorbook. Also, I love to talk all things wellness in my email newsletters.