Do you still believe there is a magic pill you can take to get that stress-free life and lean and fit body? You intuitively know it doesn’t work that way yet still bounce from fad diets and cleanses to new ways to exercise in search of the “best” way?
So many people actually do! The fitness and diet industries combined account for (Fitness, $35 billion, and Diet industry, $78 billion) over $110 billion, and that is just in the United States.
I am a huge fan of daily exercise and for fueling our bodies with “food, it can use.” Yet, now-more-than-ever, I am focused on helping individuals and organizations understand chronic stress is just as, if not more damaging than regularly eating French fries and being a couch potato – no pun.
Bear with me while I relate a common story most of us have experienced. Recently, I was in a store and overheard a parent snap at their toddler. The toddler was doing what toddlers do: she was exploring the store with her hands on everything she could touch. She wanted her mom to buy everything.
I couldn’t help but remember those days when my own children were toddlers. Those are beautiful and yet tough years. Their brains are discovering new things by the minute, like intentionally placed toys and bright colored candies at the check-out station. I also remember feeling so exhausted that I know now so many of my emotions back then were the result of sleepless nights.
It brought me to consider one of my favorite Brene Brown quotes:
“The question isn’t, are you parenting the right way? As it is, Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be.”
Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs I’ve experienced. Yet, I know this much: I am a more confident parent today than I was ten years ago. Then, I was living with chronic stress. I had two young children, a roller coaster ride of business ownership, a traveling spouse, a child with learning, emotional, and sleep challenges, and more sleepless nights than I can remember.
Behaviors like snapping at your kids, waking up in the middle of the night with worries, and others like those below are all behaviors that are telling us we have chronic stress.
1. Snapping at your kids
2. Waking up in the middle of the night and can’t get thoughts or worries out of your head
3. Often feeling frustrated with team members for ‘not doing what they should be doing’
4. Driving and losing track of where you are going
5. Losing car in parking lots
If you experience any of these, you would benefit from learning simple tools to help you with your stress. When we experience stress, our body is so smart it protects us by excreting cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone. Cortisol is meant to be elevated earlier in the day and for short bursts, not all day long. So, in our frenzied, hurried, constantly on-the-go lifestyle, cortisol is elevated all day.
When we experience chronic stress, our brain has one main job: to decrease the stress. Therefore, anything else we do, like driving to a new location, keeping track of your parked car, and starting a new project at work, takes secondary precedent to the #1 goal to reduce the stress on the brain.
Back to our mom of the toddler. When we are sleep deprived – or not getting seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night – our brain cannot function to its highest levels. It is solely “getting by”. So, snapping at the toddler makes sense. The sleepless – worry-filled nights – leave our brains with nothing in the tank to draw from when we need to perform – or drive in our days.
Finding stress resilience is a journey. Yet, I teach organizations and individuals that small habits like driving in silence or taking four deep belly breaths can go a long way to starting your journey. Learn more.
Other ways we can experience a “different relationship with stress” is to learn how to start your own mindfulness practice and integrate gratefulness into your days.
Stay tuned for more pathways to seeking a lifestyle of stress resilience, or check out my new corporate and concierge programs here.