Have you ever experienced any stress? Is the world more stressful now than it was 20 years ago? Have you ever experience physical or emotional symptoms that are made worse as a response to stress? Do you believe that the best solution to stress is getting drunk or taking drugs?
I ask these questions many times per month to groups I train or individuals I coach. Without exception, people respond by saying that there is plenty of stress out in the world. It can be a distraction and effect physical and emotional health.
Now I ask you, what do you do, on a daily basis, to control your responses to stress? Do you meditate or practice stress management for 20 minutes per day? Most people say that they are too busy for 20 minutes of relaxation. People think that there is some easier way to control stress like taking medication. It is not convenient to practice stress management, so why bother to do it? The other response that many people use when confronted by the challenges of stress is to a point a finger and then blame someone or something else, rather that to take any responsibility for ones own habitual response to life’s stress.
Do not believe me without testing this out for yourself, but most people find that by practicing 20 minutes of deep relaxation, daily, they will actually save time and energy. Research suggests that 20 minutes of deep relaxation can take the place of as much as 2 hours of sleep and the sleep that you do get will be deeper and more restful. When I first heard this statistic I did not believe it, as most of you will not. I tested the statement and after 3 months I discovered that I required less sleep. Instead of needing 8.5 hours of sleep, I was getting rested with only 7 hours of sleep. So I invested 20 minutes and required 1.5 hours less sleep time, so I came out ahead by one hour and ten minutes. Many of my Executive Coaching clients, after I convince them to try the 20 minutes of stress management, report that they get more work done in less time, with less energy, because they are better able to focus and make fewer mistakes. I challenge you to try this activity for 8-12 weeks and find the benefits that will surface.
People resist trying new things even if these “new things” are good for them. In fact, people are so overwhelmed that most of us are apathetic about taking good care of ourselves. We simply do not have the energy to care… Making time, even just 20 minutes per day, is painful and difficult. Motivation is low for using stress management preventively. Stress can cause headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, rapid heart rates, anxiety, depression, GI complaints, sexual dysfunction, back or neck pain, and poor quality of life, and yet most people would rather develop annoying or dangerous symptoms rather than practice stress management…
Most people have an unconscious need to get beaten up by stress as if it were their badge of honor for surviving our hectic world… There are a few genetic immunes who thrive on stress, with no sleep, and they make the rest of us mere mortals look bad. These “immunes” are in denial and stress will eventually affect their health or their relationships in negative ways. In Japan there is a word “Karoshi” which translates; people who work themselves to death. There is an addiction to work in our society and we need to be aware that the long term consequences of this attitude are high costs to our health, relationships, and quality of life.
When we are younger, we can get away with not sleeping or self-care. We are young and strong and flexible, but as we get older, we lose our flexibility and our strength. We have to learn how to do things smarter instead of “muscling through.” If we don’t, we will pay the price and our denial will not save us from our suffering.
Things in life that are the most stressful are the things that you care the most about but that you can not control. The only thing that you can control is the way that you respond in these difficult situations but this can take time and effort.
Please take your head out of the sand and take good care of yourself. Even if this means spending 20 minutes per day with stress management. It will save you time, energy, and even money in the long run.
L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the country’s leading expert on stress management and the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Executive Coaching and Training. In 1978, he opened the Stress Education Center www.dstress.com.