We die from it. We can’t lead without it. If we’re in a relationship we have more of it. If we’re single we have it in a different form. If we try to avoid it we’ll fail at everything we do. If we have it, we’ll alienate those we love and lead and end up broke. Hospitals are filled (80% of patients) with the result of it. It’s estimated that stress consequences cost business 8% of profit. Health funds pay out 92% of payments for it. Most divorces are the consequence of it. Most therapy is dealing with it.
So, today I want to help you do two things:
1. Prevent stress from hurting or even killing you, like it does to most people.
2. Help you move from avoiding it, to enjoying it.
It costs you. It comes in many insidious forms. It’s the biggest revenue base for the entire pharmaceutical industry. Mental and physical health is linked to it. There are thousands of models that explain why it happens. None help prevent it. Living out in nature is the cheapest solution but it is not a preventative. All leadership is the mastery of it. Any decisions you make while under the influence of it will have a lower than 50% probability of being long term sustainable and profitable. No relationship will outlast it. All stress leads to health changes. The greatest and worst outcome of stress is your health cost. If your health goes, so do you. Stress is linked to Parkinson’s, stroke, dementia, paranoia. Highly stressed people are often labelled as addictive personalities which is incorrect. Highly stressed people need immediate solutions to stress and they get addicted to the solutions which causes another stress.
The stress care industry is measured globally at US$1.9 Trillion. This is only first and second world. 3rd World countries add little to the economic measure because these statistics come from studies in market opportunity for wellness providers who gain little in sales or profit from 3rd World. But the fallacy that the poor people of Nepal or India are happier than their first world western counterparts is ridiculous. The consumption of generic branded pharmaceuticals and medications in the 3rd World per head of capita far exceed the 1st World. It’s just serviced by a different industry – generic medications. So, stress is your problem, my problem and a global problem that’s making a huge profit for some and costing the lives of others. Are you ready to explore your options first?
TOTAL HUMAN AWARENESS
The opportunity for stress covers all seven areas of life, for example, there are financial stresses, social stresses, familial stresses and spiritual stresses. At an individual level you will need to manage the stresses in each area of life differently. But more importantly, right from the outset, you will need to understand that stress at work might not be really about work. If you are bored and burnt out – call this stressful at home, you may only witness this stress when you are struggling with an issue at work and can’t focus or get emotionally overwhelmed. This is the most important key in this paper.
Eustress is a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye. The word eustress consists of two parts. The prefix eu- derives from the Greek word meaning either “well” or “good.” When attached to the word stress, it literally means “good stress”. You can read more about this on Wikepedia.
There are simply two clusters we can place all bad stress into.
1. Stuff that hasn’t happened
2. Stuff that’s actually happening
1. Stuff that Hasn’t Happened Stress – Anticipatory Stress (worry and anxiety, nervousness)
So, tomorrow you have a meeting. If it goes well you ride a wave of success. If it bombs you bomb. This is what I call anticipatory stress – anxiety over something that hasn’t happened yet. Keynote speaking in front of an audience, getting married, winning a race, getting an interview for a new job, turning your luck around, going on a date, riding a horse next week, skydiving next month. Eustress aside, because nervous anticipation is to some degree unavoidable and somewhat essential for some people to heighten their sense of preparation.
100% of anticipatory stress can be eliminated if you choose. We are in control of our thoughts. But, and there’s a big issue here that has a fancy name “consciousness” but really means, memory. Lets say I remember my Dad getting really hurt in a business deal when I was five years old. I’ve forgotten all about that movie, watching dad stress out but next week I have a business deal and it’s make or break, I try to fend off the stress about it, but I can’t sleep at night and I’m in a foul mood, my health feels bad, I get a cold sore on my lip and a rash on my back. I’m in hyper mode and nothing I do seems to change the mindset – at least the stress around the mindset I have about the future. Why? Because I have a memory and that memory will drive my reactions.
Sometimes the memories are more obvious. Say we get a heart break and then fall in love again. Thinking about commitment stresses us, and it’s obvious why. We simply “don’t want to get hurt again.” Nothing impacts the future, our health, our wealth, our love for life, our energy, our vitality or sex life more than anxiety about the future and 100% of that, whether witnessed on someone else or on ourselves, is caused by memory.
If it’s your decision to reach for the sky in life, to go live and generate results both materially in wealth and stay in health, you’ve got no option but to deal with this anxiety over stuff that hasn’t happened. It’s an insidious stress because we don’t automatically link fear of the future to the past. Even fear of the unknown in the future comes from a memory. If the brain didn’t have a way to categorise what, in your estimation, is about to happen to you, you couldn’t look forward to it, or fear it.
So, the short term fix for fear of the future (stress about stuff that hasn’t happened) might be to dull the mind with a beer, try to meditate, watch tv, take a bath and ….. well it’s a long list. But the long term requires processing memory so that we have eustress (healthy awareness) versus life debilitating anxiety or worry about something that hasn’t happened yet, and may not be as bad as we predict.
Another great reason to process memory is the placebo effect. Lets say I slipped down on one of my treks in Nepal while walking on an icy path. Whether I like it or not, I remember that. Now 10 years later I’m walking and see ice ahead. The placebo effect dictates that if I think I might fall, I probably will. It’s not an exact science but there have been enough studies to demonstrate that if you think it will happen, it increases the chances of it happening. So, in this way, the biggest predictor of the future, is your past.
This accumulation of memories not only makes the future both positively and negatively predictable but it also blocks imagination. People who say “I feel stuck” really do need to revisit a few memories and clear the deck. The fancy name for this is evolve your consciousness, the other name for it is to unlearn a few judgements.
The process is quite simple – but it’s not easy. The reason that it’s not easy is because we often define ourselves by what we think. Hence, when we start to change those memories and therefore improve imagination, we are tapping at the door of our “self identification.” Our identity.
It’s not hard, it’s just uncomfortable. Mostly, we’d rather complain about the stress, deal with the anxiety and get on with playing footy or going to work. But the health cost and personal cost of stress is way to high to do that because eventually it can build to a no go zone. We start imagining a future without stress, challenge, worry, confrontation and then we end up debilitated living in a sound proof room in a bunker with a sea change. I love the beach, but really becoming a prisoner of our own inability to handle stress is a bad result.
Unlearning simply means see the balance.
This article to be continued