Let’s talk about stress, baby…!
Have you looked around lately? Almost everybody is stressed! Everybody has too much to do and not enough time. Burnout rates are higher than ever before. Even though we live in the greatest luxury… we keep stressing ourselves. Think about it: stress sucks all the fun out of life.
Take a moment to imagine what a life without stress could be like.
When the clouds disappear, a beautiful blue sky remains. Similarly, when stressful thoughts and emotions disappear… all that remains is peace of mind.
A clear head. Happiness. Joy.
Do you think that living without stress is a utopia? Keep reading and open your mind. The information that follows may just be the single most important thing you read this week.
The problem is that most people are playing the game of life by the wrong rules. Imagine what happens when you play a game of football by the wrong rules. No matter how hard you try, you can never win. You always end up frustrated, exhausted, demoralized, empty…
We’ve all learned what stress is. Now, what if I tell you that most of what we know about stress is simply… NOT TRUE.
Myth #1: A bit of stress makes you perform better
The right level of challenge makes you perform better. But stress makes you perform worse. This is how neuroscientist Amy Arnsten puts it: “Neural circuits responsible for conscious self-control are highly vulnerable to even mild stress. When they shut down, primal impulses go unchecked and mental paralysis sets in.”
This means that when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to cause harm than good.
Think about a recent argument you may have had. It starts out with something silly, like your partner leaving socks on the floor or leaving the cap off the toothpaste. You felt annoyed, angry, frustrated… it felt like nothing else in the world exists. When you’re stressed, you experience negative emotions and you cannot think clearly. You cannot zoom out and calmly evaluate your options. All you can do is fight to get your point across.
How about creativity? One good idea can save you months of work. Unfortunately, creativity requires the lower alpha and theta brain wave frequency, whereas stressful events increase beta brain wave activity.
Myth #2: Stress can come from many different sources
“Stress can come from many different sources,” is the common wisdom we live by. But really, can it?
Isn’t stress simply your response to whatever is going on around you? And if so, can’t you choose your response?
If you believe that other things cause you to feel stressed, you put your well-being in the hands of external factors. Which is… quite stressful.
Instead, you must realize that stress comes from the meaning which you attach to a certain event. Don’t blame anything or anybody, but instead ask: “what can I do to change the situation?” or “what can I do to change what this means to me?”
Myth #3: Stress is a normal part of life that we should accept
Stress is an evolutionary survival mechanism for all living beings. When a cat is surprised by another cat, it jumps up and sprints away. Big stress for a few seconds, then back to instant relaxation.
Humans, however, are very social beings. And the human brain possesses the unique ability to plan ahead. A painful by-product of this ability is frequent stress. Even when there’s nothing to be stressed about, we worry about what could be happening.
In today’s service economy, work has become intangible, subjective. Saying “no” is a poor survival strategy, so our bodies prefer to say “yes” to whatever our environment demands. Our bodies activate the stress mechanism so we can temporarily function on 110%. Urgent deadline or ad hoc work coming up? Sure, the brain thinks, here’s a shot of adrenaline and cortisol, and now run!
Even though many humans in the Western world seem to be addicted to cortisol, it’s not something we must accept as a fact of life. We can CHOOSE to live stress-free, as long as we take ownership over our lives and we live by the right habits.
Conclusion: staying stress-free should be our number one priority – every day
Because when you’re stress-free, you can think clearly. Your brain becomes creative again. When you’re stress-free, you’re healthier, more likable.
That’s clear… stress is our number 1 enemy.
But, information is useless if you don’t take action.
So now that you have read and understood this information, only one question remains… what will you DO with it?
We will probably never succeed to be 100% stress-free, but every additional stress-free moment makes our lives more fun, more productive, more fulfilling and more rewarding.
Sounds like something worth fighting for, right?
– About the Writer –
Alexander Keehnen lives in the Netherlands and created the revolutionary online course “How to Work Stress-Free”. Being extremely pragmatic, he teaches people what they must know which schools don’t: how to be successful with no stress.
Alexander shares extremely valuable FREE tips on how to work stress-free. Subscribe on www.alexanderkeehnen.com
Interesting article, Alexander.
I know your characterization of stress has been the conventional wisdom (at least in the US) for the last thirty years, and I felt the same way. But recent research has started to turn that thinking on its head. I encourage you to check out Kelly McGonical’s book, The Upside of Stress. It was an eye-opener for me.
I agree being stress free is a lifestyle choice you. Wonder if people think being stressed proves something about their self worth? Thanks!
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