When I studied sports science, we learned about the “general adaptation syndrome” (by Hans Selye), that describes the responses that the body goes through after being prompted by a stressor. There are three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. When you add REST after the stressor occurred, you avoid exhaustion and end up with super-compensation – meaning if you combine stress and pause – you end up with GROWTH.
How cool is that?
Translate that insight from muscle to the whole you. Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. You need to over-reach to grow. What is often missing, is the pause – which then turns stress into a chronic thing that turns bad quickly.
You can end up with all kinds of issues. Headaches, tension, pain, anger, frustration, exhaustion, hormone-imbalances… and in the end all kinds of chronic and serious health issues.
On the other hand – stress plus pause equals growth.
3 areas to look at to help you ride the wave of “healthy tension” (before stress turns into fatigue, exhaustion and breakdown). And as always, within those areas, you have to develop YOUR stress busters – what works for you – one size does not fit all:
1. Avoid negative stress whenever you can
Okay, that one sounds a bit like “duh” – but seriously – look at your life, your day, the things that stress you and how you respond to them – and look at what you can change. Can you avoid certain things, situations, tasks or habits? Do you have to keep doing everything if it stresses you out? Do you chose certain things, situations and behaviours and add to your stress unnecessarily?
2. Support yourself with stress-busting habits
Most of us turn to behaviour that actually adds to our stress. Take an honest look at yourself and identify what you do, why – and if you want to keep doing it that way – or switch it up? Yes, some alcohol or sugar or whatever else your drug of choice is, might feel good and support you – but if it is too much, it definitely sabotages you and turns a little bit of stress into a disaster for the whole you.
Movement is an amazing stress management tool. Depending on your stress level, intense movement can help – and if you are closer to exhaustion – the gentler and soft movement are definitely the way to go. A walk in nature, a bubble bath, a phone call with a friend, a good book – all of these habits can be pure anti-stress potions. Pick what works for you and have them ready when you need them (also integrate it into your normal days to prevent any overloads from the get go). Here is a quick and super simple guided mindfulness meditation that helps you connect to “feel rest” whenever you need it. Try it out!
3. Check your boundaries – and learn to say NO
When you first read this, you will be saying “of course I have good boundaries” – but give it some time and think about it. Look at your daily interactions, your week, your month, the things you do, don’t do, say, don’t say – and see if you can identify a few things that might need some clarity. Where the other – your partner, your kid, your mother in law, your co-worker, your neighbour, whoever – might not know that they are over-stepping. That you would like things to go differently. Decide for yourself if that is and remains to be okay with you – or if you want to speak up and clarify your boundaries.
Don’t worry. Most of the time people respect clear boundaries more and have no major issues adjusting. There might be some tension and some adjusting going on – but it is so worth it!
Download this Optimum You Questionnaire to explore your own stress habits. Awareness is the first step to change…
If you design your day the Optimum You way, starting with a morning routine that feeds your strong, and strategically integrating strength boosting habits throughout your day – stress truly turns into something that makes you grow. Over and over.
Yes, some stress is harder than other – but you know how to take care of yourself.
How to ensure that you feel strong within yourself. And allow yourself to rest – and then grow.
Follow along @youroptimum if you would like to learn more about the Optimum You way, and dm me with questions.