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Rethinking Stress

March 24, 2017 by  
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Last week I talked about the good and bad sides of stress and what you can do to reduce the bad stuff. But I also mentioned that I had just found out something that came as a big shock to me. I had just learned about an 8 year study which discovered that how you think about stress can shorten or lengthen your life. Yes, just by believing or thinking in a certain way about stress can affect your health and lifespan. The good news is that you can change your thinking and gain benefits from the stress in your life.

Kelly McGonigal gave a Ted Talk back in June of 2013 and told of the results of the 8 year study. In that study, 30,000 adults were asked if they believed that stress was very bad for their health. There were many that said “yes” to that question and many that said “no”, then 8 years later the death records were examined and it was found that those who believed that stress caused health problems had a 43% higher death rate than those that didn’t think stress caused health problems.

In other words, just by the mind believing the stress was not bad for them protected those people’s health. The mind really does have a lot more power than we usually give it credit for. The healthy group even had a longer life span than the average person.

There is even one more pretty big positive benefit of stress when you have the right mind set—under stress, the body produces a lot of oxytocin which is a neuron hormone that actually increases your energy level. The difficulty is that if you believe stress is harmful for your health, your blood vessels become constricted which increases your chance of a heart attack. However, if you don’t believe stress is harmful then your blood vessels don’t constrict and you have the extra energy caused by that stress stimulating the production of oxytocin.

So, that is the good and the bad of being stressed and now we know that this good ole brain of ours can make it be one way or the other. To stay on the good side of stress, we all need to do mental work outs and practice controlling our thoughts and directing our beliefs to see, and benefit from, the healthy, energized aspect of the stresses we live with every day.

Stress as Good And Bad

March 18, 2017 by  
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This week I want to talk about stress. I am even a bit stressed about getting this written in time to post it! There is a lot to stress about. Because of that people have come up with all sorts of ways and methods to reduce stress. However, stress can be good because it can push you to get more done and try harder to reach your goals. And, get this, you can actually learn how to make it so that even a ton of stress doesn’t hurt or ruin your health! I think you will be surprised and delighted to learn how to do this, as I was. But let’s examine how we think about stress for a minute.

As most people know, stress seems to be caused, for the most part, by our thinking and worrying about some future event–near or far. There is, however, two bits of really good news about stress. We all know that if we wanted to be a better or even a great tennis player, golfer, singer, writer, public speaker, etcetera, there are ways to become just that. One of the best methods is the “10,000-hour rule” as explained in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. (If you haven’t read the book, I think it’s a must.) It says you need to put in 10,000 hours at something to become world-class in that field.

From my experience and from what I read, we as humans can do “work outs” and do lots of “practice sessions” with and for our brains, just like we can invest those 10,000 hours to become the best at something. Part of the good news is that, when it’s needed, it doesn’t take 10,000 practice hours to reduce stress.

So, before I get to the good news about how stress isn’t always bad for you and your health, let me just list a few simple techniques that are easy to do to reduce or eliminate stress when you know it isn’t doing you any good:

  1. Take a walk outside.
  2. Take a run in a new neighborhood.
  3. Take a Hike.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Go to a yoga class.
  6. Share your problems or stress with others.
  7. Get a massage.
  8. Take a hot bath or jump in a hot tub.
  9. Do a good deed for someone else.
  10. Give or get hugs and kisses from friends and relatives.

These simple things are easy to do and are well known to work.

Okay, that is all well and good but what about the big shocker I’ve been hinting at? This is something that hit me hard. It has to do with changing a person’s thinking and how what they believe changes their health and life span. It is pretty amazing and I will cover it next week. But in the meantime, de-stress as needed and start getting used to the idea that it’s not always bad to be stressed. Then tune in next week to see what I mean!

Battling Fear in the Great ‘Right Now’

October 2, 2015 by  
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Fear and anxiety is something all of us experience from time to time in our lives—sometimes more often than we care to admit.  We fear and stress over big things that might not, and usually never, happen. They are these little things that can get stuck in our brains day after day that bug us and don’t let go. As a matter of fact I am experiencing a bit of fear and stress right now over something that logically shouldn’t bother me, something I’ve been through many, many times and logically I shouldn’t have any fear at this point. That fear and anxiety is all wrapped up in my head over a speech I’ve been asked to give to a group of MBA students at Utah State University.  Even though it’s not scheduled until next week and I’ve given many hundreds of presentations and seminars on the same subject over the years, I’ve still been worrying myself into a bit of a frenzy.

Part of the problem is that I haven’t given any speeches for a very long time  That shouldn’t bother me since I know my financial subject backward and forward and I’m sure none of the kids (Oops! I mean the MBA college students!) don’t have near the experience or knowledge of the subject I’ll be presenting.  So I really shouldn’t be stressing.  But of course our fears and worries aren’t necessarily logical or based on any facts. And furthermore I’m almost positive, based partly experience, that when my presentation is all finish I will think back and laugh at myself for being so uptight.

For most of us normal and average human beings it’s the same story–we fear things that may happen in the future even though most of what we fear never happens. So what is the lesson to be learned from all this?  It’s an old subject, an old lesson but one that we need to constantly be vigilant in observing and monitoring–that self-talk or negative chatter box inside our head.  We need to keep directing that self-talk to bring our thoughts from future thinking to thinking and living in the great ‘right now’!

Just taking time to write about my fear and anxiety over next week’s speech has already given my brain a calming feeling and the worry and stress has dropped considerably. Wow … I guess that is another lesson to learn! If we open up and talk or write about the fears and anxiety that we have in our heads, sharing it with others, that sharing can act as a kind of magic cure.

Well, I think I better get to work and outline and practice my presentation for the MBA students next week–that also reduces stress and anxiety.