April is Stress Awareness Month and I am celebrating! Stress is one of my favorite subjects. Yes, I know I am strange, stress is an odd fascination.
My whole adult life has been filled with stress… medical school, 100 hour weeks as a doctor, two very sick children, leaving my profession, being a full-time mom, returning to my profession, leaving my home country, leaving my profession, running my own business, launching a book, starting a new business and so on… Stress has been ever present in my life, as it is for many.
There have been times I have managed stress well… and other times when I have been a mess. Stress has led to depression, anxiety, poor health and weight gain. It sapped my energy, stunted my emotional growth and overshadowed the joy in my world. I was so good at being stressed that when things in my life were going well, I created my own. Thankfully I had an aha moment when I realized that my stress was harming me and everyone I loved. I became determined to take control of my stress and learn strategies to deal with it. I became an avid student of stress management techniques. When I became a coach and neurotherapist, it seemed natural to me to help other people overcome their stress.
As a neuroscience geek I am fascinated by the fact that even though we are the most evolved creatures on the planet, we still react to stress as if we were cave-people. When an event occurs that we perceive to be a threat, hormonal, neurochemical and electrochemical cascades are triggered, getting the body ready to respond with the fight and flight response: heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and muscle tension increase; digestive, immune and reproductive functions are side tracked, after all if you might die imminently digesting food, fighting infection and sex can wait. Now this is fine for a short time, if the threat is real and impending, but long periods of sustained stress are bad for us, causing a multitude of physical and mental health problems, along with unhelpful behaviors, relationship problems, focus and productivity decline.
The problem with stress and the reason it is such a maladaptive behavior is that the trigger for stress doesn’t even have to be a dangerous event. Today much of our stress is triggered by our thoughts. Say person A is walking in the woods and they see a dog, and they have Cynophobia (dog phobia: yes I had to look that up) when they see the dog they think “arghhh I am terrified of dogs” and trigger a stress reaction. Person B loves dogs, in fact they prefer dogs to people, when they see a dog they think “oh look a lovely, cute cuddly dog” and they trigger feelings of love and caring. Remember Descartes famous saying “I think therefore, I am”, in todays world this should read “I think I am stressed, therefore I am”!
The cool thing about stress (well I think it’s cool, but as I said, I am a neuroscience geek) is that learning to manage it, is easier than you might think and has many benefits. As you can imagine I can talk about stress for hours, but here are my 3 simple steps:
Step 1: identify your sources of stress and deal with any that are reversible,
Step 2: improve the health of your body and mind, so you have a more appropriate response to stress,
Step 3: learn to develop a stress management toolkit, a list of things that help you, personally reduce your stress. This might include: exercise, walking in the woods, meditation, massage, riding your motorbike, visualization… whatever works FOR YOU!
Stress has made me resilient and flexible, it has taught me many lessons about what is important in life. Everyday I seek new ways to reduce my stress and to help others overcome theirs. I am no master of stress… mastery is a journey and I am an eager student. I used to suffer with stress, now I embrace it. I hope you will embrace it too!
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
That I can’t be perfect… I so want to be organized and tidy, but I find organizing boring… I would rather be speaking, coaching or writing.
What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I have made many mistakes in my life and I am learning to appreciate they have made me who I am. I am still working on forgiving myself for my mistakes.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
One of most rewarding achievements, is giving talks to help other people overcome stress, create a better life and become a peak performer. I am proud of the programs I have developed, I love to hear back from people that it has changed their life, even if just a little. My dream is to be able to coach and full time, I love it, it’s effortless, fun and totally fulfilling.
We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
I am impulsive and filled with self-doubt. I make way too many decisions based on emotion. My self-doubt makes me humble but I know it holds me back. My identity is tied up with my impulsivity because the flip side is creativity, I have a busy mind, constantly looking for ways to make my work better.
“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!)
Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?
I love my stress! and that’s why I wrote this article. I am proud that I have taken years of stress and turned them into something positive and spend my days helping others shorten their journey and improve their lives.