Tag Archives | stress

Get Perspective On Your Stress

My wonderful wife is a teacher at The Thacher School. One week every school year each teacher is required to take on the responsibilities of the T.O.A.D. (Teacher On Active Duty). One of the duties is to give what is called a “TOAD Talk” Monday morning to a full assembly of the school; students, faculty and staff. Her talk last Monday on stress was addressed to the lives of the students but as I listened to the talk it was apparent that she was speaking to everyone. Here is her talk. My hope is that this talk will speak to you.

Good Morning…

  • Stress affects our physical and mental health
  • Negative effects of stress on the cardiovascular system, the immune system, the endocrine system, and the muscular system, are measurable
  • Depression, one reaction to stress, is predicted to be the leading occupational disease of the 21st century
  • 54% of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives

During any given day at Thacher you hear people talk about how stressed they are. We are always busy and have a lot going on. As students you have tests, papers, pages and pages of reading, and little free time. There are complaints of endless work, worry about getting into college, not feeling good enough or adequate compared to your peers. Life seems too much to handle. Slowly we become conditioned to accept stress as a normal part of life. We learn to live with it but in reality it depletes us. If not dealt with in an effective manner, it literally kills us. Learn to live with it long enough and you won’t know what to do without it. We grow into adults who don’t know how to slow down and take time to enjoy life. We equate “down” time with wasted time. Of the myriad of ways there are to cope with stress, one is perspective—taking a look at the big picture—because, in reality, at Thacher, ours are the stresses of the privileged.

Don’t get me wrong. Stress is stress and very real to the person experiencing it whatever the cause. But most of the world would be pleased if a term paper was their biggest stress, or failing a class was their worst worry.

  • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation
  • 1 in 3 children in the developing world lack adequate shelter
  • Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished
  • Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes—about one child every five seconds

In comparison to what life has to offer some, the stresses of a day in the life at Thacher seem almost welcome.

Think about it the next time you complain about being stressed out or complain about your life in general. Tell it to the mother of five from a poor country who walks 40 miles with her young children to gather a gallon of water you wouldn’t give to your dog.

Again, our stress is real and has power to wreak havoc on our being, but perspective can give us a new way to look at our situation and give us a much needed reality check.

Ironically, the things we tend to stress about most often are the stuff of life that is ultimately the least important.
I promise you at your 20 year reunion, the “D” Mr. Perry gave you in English won’t matter even when in the moment it may have been the end of the world or at least your immediate future.

On your deathbed, surrounded friends and family, the fact you didn’t get into Stanford, Yale or Brown won’t matter at all as you say your goodbyes. Your salary won’t matter. The grades you earned, both good and bad, won’t matter at all.

What will matter?

It’s not about the college, the grades, the money – it’s about you and what you bring to the table. What you decide to create of yourself from your experiences.  You will be all you have in the end. It will matter that you lived examined life — one of integrity, responsibility, curiosity and passion. It will matter to be able to look back on your life having enjoyed it all –the good the bad, the highs and the lows and maybe having learned something about the complexities of the human condition.

So that D on a paper? The rejection from your first choice college? Not being as good as you would like to be at any given endeavor? Not being the best? The grade, the college, being the best is irrelevant and stressing about your situation won’t help. A good education is available to anyone willing to work for it regardless of the institution. If you enjoy doing something you will get better at it with practice and patience. There will always be those who are more accomplished than you and those less accomplished. It could be argued that there is as much to be learned, if not more, from receiving a D on a paper as there is from an A.

When it comes time for you to graduate, your Thacher diploma shouldn’t be emblematic of the college you got into, your grades or your prowess on the athletic field – if that is the case we haven’t done our job.

Your diploma should represent friends made over your years here that will be some of the dearest of your life. It should represent hard work doing things you enjoyed and even those things you didn’t enjoy doing. It should hold the memories of having met challenges that would have never been asked of you anywhere else – walking long miles with a heavy pack at high altitudes, a stubborn horse that frustrates you daily, teachers that expected your best work day in and day out. It should represent your intellectual and personal growth as a human being.

So while some amount of stress in life is inevitable and maybe even needed at times, don’t let it control you or become a way of being. Stop and try to get perspective on your life. It is yours alone to design and develop.

As Anna Quindlen wisely said:

“Whether you are sixteen or sixty, begin today to say no to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows the parameters of a happy life when all it knows is the homogenization of human experience.”

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Changes brewing…

coffee_cup_above

Some people see their lives in chapters, or phases. One goes “through” these chapters and phases and either grows, expands, contracts, or evolve from whatever the experience may deliver.

What about the space between these chapters? The period of time between one chapter and another. Sometimes the shift is immediate, like having a child and becoming a parent for the first time. Other times the shift is long. It is an odd space to occupy for a lengthy period of time. Almost like being in limbo for an extended period of time. Sometimes the destination is known and its a matter of the starts aligning for the proper arrival. Other times “Destination Unknown” with life and the world unfolding opportunities in front of you.

To add another level to this idea is the thought that you have chapters of personal and professional life. Sometimes you are in a certain chapter of professional life, and a certain chapter of professional life. Sometimes one is in transition, while the other is stable. Sometimes both are in transition.

What I find interesting is the presence of awareness with relation to being between chapters. Being aware that you are in between chapters and not really in one. That is where I find myself at the moment. I am aware of the transition and it is both on a personal and professional level.

It can raise anxiety and stress, as I am currently feeling, but overall the experiences are about growth, evolution and transformation.

So, if you find yourself in a transition of change. Change between chapters. Be present, be aware, and be grateful for that.

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The Time of Your Life

Image from “A Bugs Life” by Pixar

I have been reminded this week that I am in the time of my life. A few things brought this on.

  1. My wife is away for the week and I am taking care of our 3 boys solo
  2. I am spending more time with my kids (which is great!)
  3. I am working everyday in and on my business for a bit (not as much as usual for the above reason)
  4. I am being present around  my kids and reflecting on that
  5. And boys will be boys (and how!)

I was driving with the boys from an appointment this afternoon. As is typical I was getting questions from the older two at random intervals while they were all watching a DVD (Ah yes, modern technology in cars—where was that when I was a kid. All we had was MadLibs). The movie happened to be “Bugs Life“—one of the many genius movies created @ Pixar. The questions were about “Do grasshoppers have wings?” and the like.

The movie happened to be at the end and the Randy Newman song “The Time Of Your Life” was playing in the background as I was driving home. The chorus says. “It’s the time of your life, so live it well.” The mountains were off in the distance with the sun setting. The golden hills were rolling by and it was just one of those moments when you realize “this is it!” This is the time of my life. It was really cool to be that present to it.

Even though I get lost in the moments of ‘stress’ and the rat race day-to-day, being present to my kids and their questions and comments, the scenery passing by outside, and then the song was the icing on the cake.

It is the time of your life, so live it well.

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My Birthday And Presence (not presents)

My Birthday

I recently celebrated my birthday. Birthday’s are an interesting phenomena. People in and around your life take time out to let you know you are important to them. Whether a small token, or a simple ‘happy birthday,’ the sentiment is sincere and kind. The feeling one feels on the receiving end are nice. However, wouldn’t it be nice to feel that ‘vibe’ every day?

Something has been happening to me lately. My presence in the current moment is increasing. What does this mean? It means that I am not worrying or stressing about “what ifs” in the ‘future’ or ‘past’. I am not getting caught up in an imaginary story that I am creating with thoughts that are just purely fiction. I am being present to what is happening right now. It can, and does, make me feel that ‘vibe.’

I think the more you give, the more you get. Giving out kindness to others comes back to you in forms of kindness. Some people call it karma. I call it being present to life in the moment. All we have is this moment right now. The future is an idea, the past is a memory. Making the most of this moment by being present to it can make your whole life, not just your birthday, a rich and rewarding experience.

Happy Birthday to you!

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I am in a Dip and I am going to Stick.

The Dip

I just completed reading Seth Godin’s, “The Dip.” An interesting little read that presented mostly things that I already knew in various pieces from a variety of sources. However, it is all distilled into a simple, quick, and easy read.

What I got out of this book was some clarity. I suspected I was in a dip and reading this helped bring that into focus. I am in a dip with my business. My business is in a state of stagnation. That is the best I can describe it. It’s not dieing, but its not growing either. The level of work with my business could be sustained, for what feels like, almost indefinitely. How can that be bad? I have work, I am making money, but I am not happy with how things are. I know there is potential for more. This business has not reached its potential.

After reading “The Dip” I actually contemplated disassembling my business–quitting it. In the book there are many suggestions about quitting, and the process of why to quit something. There is a purpose to quitting. It is to free you up to focuses energy on getting through the dips that matter. Of course part of the process is identifying what matters, but that was easy–at least for me.
There are other outside factors I will not get into, but suffice it to say that the alternative to being an entrepreneur (going back to punching the clock for a paycheck) was seriously considered for a bit. However, in the thinking surrounding this one thing became clear when I read the sentence, “Never quit something with great long term potential just because of the stress of the moment.

That sentence summed it up for me. There is great potential in owning a business. There is great stress owning a business–stress of the moment. Furthermore, I realized that there are things I have not done or tried with my business. To quit before at least trying would create a great deal of regret later down the road. So now I have a better perspective, a plan for action, someone to motivate me and keep me on track, and a timeframe by which to measure the efforts.

For now I will stick rather than quit.

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Do You Call It A Resolution?

Sign of choice

I’ve changed my attitude a bit since the stroke of midnight on 12/31/2008. Nothing drastic just a change of perspective really. I have decided (key word) to be less stressed. Yes, I have decided to be less stressed. I can you know. Because after all stress does really comes down to choice. When presented with a situation I can choose to stress about it, or go with the flow. During last year I tended towards the stressed side of life. Everything became stressful no matter how insignificant or benign. It was exhausting, frustrating, tiring, and no fun at all.

I worked hard in the last half of last year to come to understand that everything involves choice–especially your emotional state, what and how you label things, and how you ‘feel’ about it. Thing for me was that being ‘stressed’ with regard to just about everything became default behaviour. The stress compounded to create anxiety about everything. I got tired of feeling stressed all the time and sought out answers and remedies to feeling stressed all the time. Yes, hot baths, exercise, massage, acupuncture all help create periods of relaxation but they can be fleeting. What I needed was a something longer term and I found it in understanding that I have a choice to how I react to everything around me. Choice is the power to steer clear of default behaviours. The first step is awareness and from that ‘choice’ can turn what would be stressful by default into just another thing. The fact that I did not do my 15 minutes of posting yesterday? No stress. It was a holiday.

So, I’m not sure I see this change as a resolution so much as a serious lifestyle change, or should I say lifestyle ‘choice?’ Do you see stress as a choice? Or, something else?

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A little structure can help

StructureI find that when you are an operation of one person lack of structure can work out. Flying “by the seat of your pants” can work because you only have yourself to blame when things don’t work out. On the other hand with each additional person you add to the mix more structure, defined roles, and clearly labeled responsibilities are in order or spiraling chaos ensues.

My life is a bit hectic but I love it. I am a husband, father and business owner and with these responsibilities comes many demands, from many places, in many forms. In the past two weeks my wife has started working full-time again (she is a teacher). With the start of her work schedule has come a new schedule for the entire family. Kids go off to school, off to daycare, my wife and I go off to our work. Then at the end of the day is the mix of everyone being picked up and brought back together at home. This is all too common in our society and culture.

However, for some of us the chaos that can ensue with being dropped in this process can wreak havoc—at least it has for me personally. Specifically the havoc comes in the form of a structureless process. I have been operating without any structure for the first two weeks of this new schedule change and it creates, for me, a great deal of stress and anxiety.

So, I have gone over with my wife (who thinks I am crazy!) just what I am responsible for each morning with regard to getting the kids ready and getting us all out the door every morning—simple enough, right? Except that each day of the week (Mon-Fri) starts and ends differently because my wife doesn’t start or end teaching at the same time every day, and she doesn’t have classes on Wednesday. This adds a touch of craziness to an already chaotic schedule.

I went ahead and I have actually written down a weekly schedule for me to look at detailing everything that I am responsible for. There are many tasks that I do the same every day, but there are others that I do not do every day. This may appear crazy but hell, it works for me. I don’t have to ‘think’ about what to do every morning, it is spelled out right on paper.

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OT: Stunned over the loss of ‘The Special One’

Jose Mourinho under stressI am a Chelsea Football Club fan and have been for years. I am an American and admit I could really care less for American football. As for what the world terms ‘football’ I have the greatest respect and admiration for those who play the game at the highest levels–primarily in Europe, in particular the English Premier League. Watching so much ‘footie’ or soccer at the highest levels has made my taste for watching the amateur game sour. But that is not what this post is about.

I visited the BBC Sport website to find out that Jose Mourinho has turned in his resignation as manager at Chelsea. You can read all the details here. I am floored with this news. Chelsea have spent millions bringing in some of the world’s top flight talent over the past few years. They have won the EPL championship 2 of the last 3 years, the Carling Cup, the FA Cup and 2 trips to the semifinals of the Champions League. Suffice it to say that “the special one” did live up to his hype in a very short time with Chelsea. He took a club with massive potential and brought it to the next level making it one of the most respected and reviled football clubs in the world. Chelsea fans love Jose, non-Chelsea fans do not. If anything they were entertained by him. He was the most colourful character on the sidelines managing a club in the EPL. He was always a great press conference as well and would say some of the damnedest things.

In the end I see this as a HUGE loss for the players who lost a friend and mentor who had winning and their best interests at heart, and for the fans. The fans who want nothing but success for the club and at the same time were endlessly entertained by what came out of ‘the special one’s’ mouth. I will leave you with this.

If I wanted to have an easy job… I would have stayed at Porto – beautiful blue chair, the UEFA Champions League trophy, God, and after God, me.” -Jose Mourinho

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What to do?, what to do?

I’m in a situation right now with regard to the location of my office–it’s in my house. My office is a small and partially separated space from the rest of the house. I have a door that I can close (and lock). But I have a window that is opened to the rest of the house, letting in all sorts of noise and disturbances. Continue Reading →

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How to do it all?

To me this is the elusive question. How do you get it all done? Continue Reading →

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