This is a follow-up to my blog, Stress-Induced Weight Gain to provide some fundamental and sound ways to stop the cascade of stress hormones from wreaking havoc on our mental, physical and emotional health. As I explained in my last blog, stress can make us fat! Cortisol and adrenaline in the right amounts are super beneficial for us to survive and thrive - including maintaining the healthy, lean and strong body we desire. But our bodies were not designed to withstand ongoing stress day after day and year after year, especially the psychological stress that most of us experience within the confines of our minds.
My experience with working with women ranging from the ages of 30 - 65 is there is a strong belief system ingrained in us as young girls that says, “we must take on the worries and problems of others (especially our families) and sacrifice our well-being in the name of being a woman.” Some of us were even taught that it is selfish to say “no” under any circumstance.
Many of us find our value and self-worth tied up in what others say about us and how much others need us. These beliefs set us up be a victim when it comes to the expectations and unexpected circumstances of life. It’s as if we can’t help ourselves - we feel we HAVE to get involved and take the world upon our shoulders, even if we weren’t asked to do so. In other words, something inside of us tells us that it’s not our fault that we are stressed. The reason we are always stressed out is because we believe that we have a responsibility to take on the high demands and expectations from everyone around us - and THAT Is what is causing us to neglect taking care of ourselves.
Let’s think about how our daily circumstances can dictate whether or not we have a “good” or “bad” day. The stress level of any particular day, will most likely influence whether or not we...
- eat a healthy breakfast or grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
- go to the gym or work more.
- order the cheeseburger and fries or the grilled chicken and steamed vegetables.
- drink one glass or one bottle of wine.
- drink every day or only on the weekends.
- snap at our kids or husband or remain present and loving.
- use coffee to get through our day or drink the water that we know will serve us more.
- sit in our car, on our phone with our third coffee of the day while our kids are at practice or get out and walk.
All of these decisions can be easily influenced by our stress level and how in control or out of control we feel in the moment and to be completely honest - it is these small daily, consistent choices that influence and ultimately determine how we feel and look. If we want to change our health reality, we have to start here.
In my last blog, I encouraged you to identify your primary “stressors” and acknowledge whether or not they can be eliminated (because you are taking on responsibility that you really don’t need to take on out of obligation or guilt) or whether you need to shift your perspective about the stressor.
Here’s is my next strategy. The following is a series of questions I like to ask myself whenever I am faced with a situation that is “stressing me out”. Take a deep breath. This is not rocket science, but this simple strategy has the power to put things in perspective if you choose to do it.
Question #1 - Is anyone going to die?
Literally, sometimes we act as if the sky is falling because we are running 20 minutes late, the line at Starbucks is SUPER LONG, our kid got in trouble at school or your husband or family member was just laid off. I am not negating the seriousness of any situation you are currently dealing with, but let’s keep it in perspective and be thankful if the answer to this question is NO - no one is going to die.
Question #2 - Am I going to die?
Are you going to die if you show up 20 minutes late? Is your life going to end because you didn’t get that promotion that you had your heart set on? There are people in this world dealing with life and death situations and therefore I am grateful that I have air in my lungs, a roof over my head and healthy food to feed to myself and my daughter and I am not dealing with a life or death situation. It’s all about perspective.
Question #3 - Is this going to matter in 6 months?
It can be powerful to remove yourself from the current situation and place yourself six months down the road. Is this going to matter in six months that you lost your car keys and wallet? In six months, is this going to matter that you still have a ton of boxes to unpack for your move? Your mother-in-law is staying with you for 10 days (yikes!) - but in six months is this going to matter? You are faced with uncertainty in your relationship or with one of your children and in six months things will be in a different place. This moment is just this moment. In six months, you will be in a different moment.
Question #4: What is the worst and best thing that can happen?
This is your opportunity to really go for it. I want you to imagine the absolutely worst thing that could possibly happen in the situation you are dealing with. At least you know what you are dealing with, right? But then there is the flip side to every circumstance that we view as stressful - it’s the beauty that is available through the struggle. We don’t get stronger by coasting through life and not experiencing any obstacles. Actually, strength, power, wisdom and growth can only happen when we are challenged and stretched. It’s when we truly find out what we are made of and who God really is!
Question #5: What can I DO right now about this situation?
This is where you go into action. Worrying never solved a problem. EVER. Complaining never solved a problem. EVER. What can you do? Sometimes all you can do is
- hug someone
- take a home cooked meal (or take-out) over to someone who just got a diagnosis
- get on your knees and pray
- go and get that workout in so you are mentally and physically prepared to be present and available when you are needed
- update your resume
- call a friend who has gone through a similar situation
- be patient and wait for God to work it out
To some of you this may seem trivial, like your problems are too big for just a few questions. I get it. I have had a tendency to want to analyze, scrutinize, obsess and rescue my stress away. However, I have realized that keeping a healthy perspective on the reality of the situation by focusing on what I can or cannot do allows me to remain in control of myself and surrender everything else to God.
About two and a half years ago, everything that I held as “fact” and “foundation” in my life was ripped away. There are no words to describe the confusion, devastation and shock I found myself in - and 7 ½ months pregnant to boot. I had a choice. I could allow the situation to surround and suffocate me - robbing me of my joy and possibly a healthy pregnancy and baby - or I could get perspective and focus on what I could do in the midst of the storm.
Through this trial, that is still ongoing by the way, I have discovered that people and situations only have the power you give them. And the only time I lose my power, is when I give it away through going “victim” to my circumstances. No one was going to die. I wasn’t going to die. The worst thing that could happen was already happening and what I could do about it was take care of my health and the health of my baby which included getting rest, eating well, drinking water, exercising, breathing, and praying. I surrounded myself with people who lifted me up in prayer and encouraged me. I drew close to Jesus as he has led me through the process of deep healing that is now manifesting in peace, wisdom, perseverance and unshakeable faith.
This life was not intended to be a cake walk. We live in a fallen world and that gives us many opportunities to grow and overcome and show the world that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. My heart for you is that you overcome in a big way and reap the reward of walking courageously and faithfully through the uncertainty of your circumstances.
If you could use some support to achieve your emotional and physical health goals, I encourage you to book a free coaching session with me here.