The Best Stress Tip
We live in a fast-paced world where change and stress are inevitable. At various times when I’ve felt “over-stressed,” I have searched far and wide for approaches to “minimize stress” or “eliminate stress”. After years of experience and varying degrees of success in minimizing and eliminating stress, I came to the conclusion that I had been looking at the issue the wrong way. It’s not about getting rid of stress; it’s about seeing stress as a challenge. In other words, see stress as a sign that you are making progress and embrace the opportunity to push through it.
The main catalyst for my change in thinking was a book I read several years ago by James Loehr; it was called Stress for Success. One principle he taught in that book made a profound impact on how I look at stress and how I’m consistently able to work through it and come out stronger on the “other side”. The principle was that you don’t want to try to avoid stress, as that is not possible. Rather, you want to oscillate in and out of stress. You need cycles of stress and recovery. Neither a constant stressed state, nor a constant stress-free state is a positive thing.
You can imagine these cycles of stress and recovery however you’d like. I like to visualize them as sine waves, or a single sine wave, depending on the situation. This maps very well to the way I think about a lot of things in life as being cyclical. I use this image in every difficult thing that I do, whether in sport, business, or other parts of my life. I think it’s a useful metaphor, because implicit in the picture is a ray of hope. Even though things may be very difficult during a particular period, or in a particular instant, when you visualize the cycles as illustrated here, you know that the difficulty will not last forever. You know that if you keep pushing and stretch your limits a bit, you will make it to the “other side” and have a chance to rest and recover a bit.
As I’ve said many times elsewhere, I think hope is an essential element of happiness and achievement. If these were not sine waves as above, but rather, “flat-lines,” like you see on an EKG monitor when someone’s heart has stopped beating, where would the hope be? Whether the “flat-line” signified perpetual stress or perpetual relaxation, it wouldn’t matter. In both cases, it would not be something to look forward to.
So, don’t fear stress. Don’t try to eliminate it. Embrace stress and see it as a challenge that will make the relaxation and recovery all the more pleasant when you push through to the “other side”. Always keep in mind that without stress, generally there is not much achievement. By default, if you are innovating or improving on existing constructs, you are making changes, which invariably entails stress. You are “making waves”. Now you can think of them as “sine waves” and see them as a matter of course. Take them in stride. Get used to them. Value the periods of recovery that much more, as you know they will refresh you so you’ll be ready when the next wave arrives … and it will.
I look forward to your thoughts and questions. Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.
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