By Larry North, an EO speaker and fitness expert.
In our “new” economy, stress levels appear to be at an all-time high. Uncontrolled stress can lead to headaches, body pains, sleep problems, weight problems, depression and more. Fortunately, we all have the opportunity to effectively manage our stress by making positive lifestyle choices. This article focuses on helping you make the choices to better manage stress in your life.
The truth is stress is stress, regardless of who you are. But let’s face it: our parents for the most part had it much more difficult than we do. Today’s young people have been raised in a generation much different than prior generations. Young people today have been brought up in a society of abundance, with no memory of life before cell phones, laptops, Internet and high-tech video games. This is very different from previous generations. My father used to say that life at its best was still a struggle. I never have agreed with that statement. He did have a hard life, but he also made several bad choices in life. As a result, he lived his entire life feeling sorry for himself and as if the world owed him something.
Lately, everywhere you turn there seems to be a report of bad news. Examples include the stock market, housing, unemployment, layoffs, war, natural disasters and much more. Face it: bad news sells! Everybody processes bad news differently. We all handle the stress in our lives differently. I personally have witnessed someone completely coming unglued because they gained a few pounds or had a small fender-bender, yet the very same person stayed calm while being informed of very tragic news, such as the death of a loved one. I have also witnessed the complete opposite.
I took my first CPR training course in 1983, and will never forget lesson number one as long as I live. I have even applied this lesson in my personal and professional life. The lesson is: In an emergency, always remain calm, and clear the room of people who are not! Irrational and frantic behavior only makes the situation worse. This is not to say I haven’t popped my own cork occasionally. But when my back is up against the wall, I tend to stay calm and relaxed. When I find that I am starting to feel sorry for myself, I generally realize that there are many more people suffering to a much greater degree than I am suffering. I am reminded of the very old, famous quote by an unnamed source: “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I came upon a man with no feet.”
With much practice, I have learned to stop stressing over things that are completely out of my control, such as all the things reported in the news or other people’s behavior or actions. I also know that doubling my efforts on the very things I can control will help minimize any potential setbacks or damages that surround me. Exercising, eating healthy, setting new goals, managing my time better, and most importantly, working on maintaining a positive attitude and staying happy, are the true secrets to handling stress.
There is no question that we are all “wired” differently. Some people may appear to be more pessimistic and negative, especially people who have a high level of responsibility in their professional lives. But in spite of the way people are wired, we can choose to be happy. Being HAPPY is a choice. It takes a lot of work to be happy and positive each and every day. I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that true happiness takes vision and hard work. It is a routine and a process that you talk yourself through on a daily basis.
I realize that the reason it takes hard work and commitment to be happy is because when you take two steps forward, it is easy to get knocked backward on any given day. I understand this may be difficult for some of you. It may take more work than you ever imagined, but the payoff for you and your loved ones will be GREATER than you ever thought possible. Now it is your turn to stretch your emotional muscles farther than ever before, and truly no longer sweat the small stuff. Remember that your smile, laughter, confidence and tone of voice set the stage around you.