Stress affects human performance in so many ways that just to list the impact upon work would take half of this page. People under high stress become forgetful, are often late for work, miss appointments, have more sick days, have lower competence levels, are more irritable and difficult to get along with, are more likely to break things (by accident or intention) and are great candidates for the kinds of stress-related illnesses and accidents that drain Workers Compensation benefits.
Stress reduction must be a constant, on-going process in all our lives. It helps us avoid pain, illness and accident. And, a low-stress (or low-distress) lifestyle is certainly the most pleasant.
Once a client who was under a great deal of stress at the time said to me, urgently: "Look, all these options you've shown me for stress management are getting to be too much. It's like using a technique to put a patch on me here and another to put a patch on me there. I don't need to get better six months from now after I've learned a whole bunch of new things -- I need to be better now! Can't you just boil this stuff down to something simple I can understand and do right now? That I can use every day?"
Good question. In fact, thinking about it provided a whole new approach to helping with stress issues.
There is so much information and advice on stress these days that it's become stressful to sort through it to get help. Fortunately, the answer to my client's question is all that information and advice can be boiled down to three basic essentials:
1.) Optimum physical activity.
2.) Mastery of your thinking processes.
3.) A high level of self-esteem.
If you achieve these three things, you will be able to manage your stress, become highly stress-resistant, improve your health and physical well-being, raise your immunity to illness and improve your performance in everything you do.
OPTIMUM PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Why recommend physical activity for stress relief?
Stress is first a physical response, and physical responses require physical countermeasures. Stress is a primitive physical response or set of automatic physical responses to any demand placed upon the individual. The strength of that response varies with the kind and strength of the demand and the circumstances under which the demand is made. For example, a ringing phone is a demand. It gets a different strength of response depending upon when it rings. If you are taking a usual number of calls at the office at times you expect them, the demand is relatively low and your physical reaction is probably minimal. If the phone rings in the middle of the night when you're worried about a seriously ill loved-one in the hospital, the demand and your response are going to be high.
The response is generally called the fight/flight response. It should be called the fight/flight/freeze/faint/fumble response, since those are the usual possible outcomes. But, whatever we call it, here's basically what happens in your body:
* Your heart rate goes up.
* Your blood pressure goes up.
* You begin to perspire to help keep the body cool.
* Blood is directed away from hands/feet/digestive system to power large muscles. * Your diaphragm (the muscle that works your lungs like a bellows) locks and your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. * Your pupils dialate to help you see the enemy better.
* Your awareness of hearing becomes more focused.
* Your digestive system shuts down so the energy expended there can be used where it's needed. (Or, alternatively, the system may attempt to void its contents, so you'll be lighter and move faster.) * Your immune and self-repair systems go on standby. After all, the processes of these systems are incompatible with heavy action. Besides, you need the energy to fight or run.
If you really need to meet a physical threat, all this is great. It prepares your body to do the job. Then, after doing the job -- destroying or avoiding the stressor --...
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