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Stress?!?! What Stress?!?! Punching Stress In The Face: PART 1 of 3

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Nate VanKouwenberg, MA, CFSC, USAW

My metaphorical plate is officially full! Between a full time teaching job, owning a small business, multiple coaching positions, two beautiful kids under 6, an amazing wife, insane yellow lab, house to care for and everything else that adults have to deal with on a daily basis, free time for me is about as rare as a Buffalo Bills playoff appearance. Although I love my life and everything that keeps me so busy, there are times I find myself inches away from crawling under my bed in the fetal position with my thumb in my mouth.

Over the past few years, the plethora of hats that I wear has helped me develop shoulders of steel and become a self proclaimed stress management guru. Trust me, I’m far from the land of puppy dogs and ice cream, but there are several strategies and tips that I remind myself of regularly to maintain sanity. In this three part blog series, I’ll outline ten tips that have helped me get through the crazy times and maintain what I would consider a very high quality of life.

First, what is stress? Stress has been defined as any outside force or event that has an effect on the body or mind. So wait, stress isn’t always bad? NO! Stress is always viewed as the villain, when in fact, if there was no such thing as stress, I would either develop bed sores from excessive Netflix binges or grow dreads and tour with Phish until further notice. We need some level of stress in our lives to get out of bed in the morning and find the motivation to make a difference.

The image below of the Inverted U Stress Graph illustrates the relationship between pressure and performance. We clearly need some stress in our lives to maintain the motivation required to set and achieve our goals in order to become a contributing member of society. Think about the importance of physical stress. Our entire industry is based on providing our clients with an optimal level of physical stress that will allow the body to adapt and ultimately result in GAINZZZ! An extreme lack of physical stress in a training program would look like a pro athlete mall walking for an off-season conditioning workout. Again, stress is not always bad!

So, the key isn’t being stress free, it’s maintaining a healthy level of stress by effectively managing the stressors in our lives. Before we talk about stress management techniques, it’s important we understand the different levels of stress.

There are three levels of stress:

  • The “Flight or Flight” stage is our body’s natural reaction to a shocking stressor. This immediate involuntary response is followed by the release of adrenalin. Think of someone playing a joke by jumping out and scaring you. Big eyes, heart jumping through your chest, sweaty palms? Yes, that’s your body’s natural reaction to an alarming stressor. Are you going to punch your friend in the face because you think he’s a monster, or scream and run away?

  • The Resistance stage includes the strategies that I’ll discuss in this series to deal with the stress in your life. If you decide to Fight the stressor instead of Fleeing from the stressful situation, it will be key to have plenty of ammo on hand so you don’t lose the battle.

  • The Exhaustion stage is when the stress management techniques we’ll discuss in this series fail. Long term effects of excessive stress can include heart disease, cancer, depression, drug abuse and suicide. Clearly nothing to take lightly.

Now that we’ve got the facts straight, we can start building our arsenal of stress management techniques that will help us maintain a healthy level of pressure by fighting the daily barrage of stressors instead of waving the white flag.

In Parts 2 and 3 of the series I’ll map out five of my favorite stress management techniques! Until then, take a step back and write down three major stressors in your life that could become overwhelming and lead you into the exhaustion stage if not dealt with properly. What strategies are you currently using to maintain sanity when it feels like you need an extra set of arms to juggle all of the stressors being thrown at you?

Until then……

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