As a life coach, people come to me to get help defining and achieving their goal(s). Yet I spend a fair share of my time talking about stress and nervous system…
Ever been annoyed by that?
As a go-getter, I was!
Thinking “just tell me how to get better organised or better focus!!!! I don’t want to hear that I am stressed! I know that!!”
I DID know that!
I also knew that I needed to be less stressed!
I even knew that yoga and meditation was good for that!
But here are 3 critical things that I wasn’t paying attention to:
1. Protection Vs. Growth
We often think of survival as protection/defense.
But, as I learnt from Dr. Lipton, biologically speaking, an organism need both protection (moving away from from threat, like for a cell, toxin, or for a human a lion) AND growth (moving towards the good stuff, like, for a cell, nutrients or for humans, food) to survive. Also think of the billions of cells that your body replaces daily, that is growth as well.
I believe this is one of the reasons why humans are driven to personal and professional growth.
However, the mechanisms for
protection and growth cannot run at the same time.
Protection always gets prioritised.
If you are chased by a lion, no need to expend energy seeking or digesting food right!?
When we are constantly stressed (in protective mode), no (or extremely limited) growth can happen.
This is why people like me go on and on and on… about stress and nervous system regulation…
Not to annoy you :) but because it’s the biological foundation to growth
AND because you need growth to survive!!
2. Stressor Vs Stress
Now that you hopefully are little more motivated to kick stress in the butt, let’s make another distinction (popularised by Dr. Nagoski): that of stress Vs. stressor.
A stressor is the thing that activates stress in your body. It can be an external thing like work, money, kids etc… or an internal thing like self-criticism, memories etc…
Stress is your body’s response (physiological and neurological) to the stressor that prepared it to, for example, run away from the lion. Doing things like increasing heart rate, shutting down digestion, ending blood to your legs etc… It was designed to respond to acute stress.
Now, why is it an important distinction!?
Because often we get rid of the stressor but not the stress.
So we’ve handed off that big project (the stressor) and sight relief, but we
haven’t REALLY completed the stress cycle!! You are still swimming in "stress chemicals".
See, the stress cycle is only completed once you have actually run away from the lion, and used up all that protective energy that your body was preparing for you.
So if you’ve ever felt like jumping up and down, or laughing/being loud after handing in your project, but stopped yourself because it isn’t “professional”, that might be why… and I’d seriously advise that you go somewhere you can do it :)
Any physical activity , mouvement, sound or emotion coming out of your body will do: shake, jump, hug, laugh, scream, grunt….
3. Compound Stress Cycles
Now this concept was taught to me by my personal and business coach, Maggie Reyes. And I love it because ... I told you... how I thought a weekly yoga class was beneficial (and it is) but this has reminded me why it is important to complete stress cycles daily / several times a day.
I also believe it to be the answer to “I don't have BIG problems in my life, so why am I feeling this way!?”
Compound stress happens when you have an “open” stress cycle (let’s say you kids didn’t sleep or woke you up), topped up by another “open” stress cycle (let’s say your boss was a jerk or something), topped up by another one (let’s say you received this month’s energy bill and it is huge), and another one (maybe you got caught in traffic after work because so-and-so just HAD to tell you one more thing), and another one (maybe you got home and your partner wanted to have THAT conversation)… and before you know it, your body is completely overwhelmed.
Your life doesn’t objectively sucks but your body is swimming in “stress chemicals”, in complete “protective mode”.
It is like if you were a race runner, and several time during the day, someone had say “get ready, set” (when you call in all your energy to run) and never said GO (which is when that energy is used). And that “get set” state is why you feel so tired all the time.
So what are we to do!?
Well (and let me tell you I have fought that idea myself for a long time), while a weekly yoga class might help your chronic stress, I believe that only (multiple times) daily stress cycles closing practices will reduce compound stress.
That tea break with that colleague that makes you laugh.
That long hug with your partner.
That jumping up and down for a few sec.
That growl you’ve been containing.
That singing (or creaming) supa loud in the car...
All of them will do!!
And if you want personalised help in closing these stress cycles, changing habits and growing towards you goals, there are only a few simple steps to take:
Take your calendar
Look at mine & book a time for us to chat
Yes, I know you don't have time for that!!
And it is exactly WHY you need to make the time!!
So much time is wasted by open stress cycles....