Your computer is slow to boot-up. You are five minutes late for an important meeting and every traffic light is red. Your five-year-old daughter disapproves of her morning hairstyle (she wants braids instead of a ponytail) and goes into meltdown mode (and you’re still late for work). You try to indulge in a nice cup of coffee, only to find that the cream has soured. Ah…. the joys of daily chronic stress! Ever been there? Of course you have, and the reality is that it isn’t about to go away! So, now that this universal problem has been established, how do we cope with chronic stress and why is it important to deal with these seemingly inoffensive nuisances? It’s not as if the world is coming to an end, right? It’s just a cup of coffee gone bad, or the computer taking its sweet time to wake up!
Well, according to Dr. Richard Boyatzis, leadership expert and professor at Case Western Reserve University, a constant daily diet of these apparently minute stressors do actually have a considerable negative impact on our emotional and physical health. As humans, we are wired to cope with a certain amount of chronic stress before we reach a breaking point. Some have a greater tolerance for chronic stress than others; this, incidentally, is why you might encounter one person who would fly off the handle if the server got the food order wrong, while another person would simply go with the flow. It is also impossible to know what that person has already dealt with during his or her day.
The most important lesson here, according to Boyatzis, is to be aware of the effects chronic stress has on our lives, to acknowledge these effects, and then to actively work to counter them productively. But, how does one do this exactly? Boyatzis explains that a rest-and-renewal process to counter the negative effects of chronic stress can be done through several practices, including mindfulness, compassion, hope and laughter.
Mindfulness: The practice of daily meditation, yoga, tai-chi or other form of reflection encourages rejuvenation. It can also increase focus and overall well-being. What’s more, these practices do not have to take hours; rather, they can be short 5-minute breaks in the action to regain focus and positivity. There are many wonderful applications out there that can assist in creating mindful moments throughout the day. Check out Headspace, Calm and OMG I Can Meditate. See what works for you!
Compassion: Being in a loving relationship, whether with a spouse, your children, or even a pet, can derail the negative effects caused by chronic stress. Boyatzis further explains that animals must be petted to derive the most positive stress-relief benefits. The physical contact of petting a dog or cat offers much more stress relief than looking at a fish (sorry fish-lovers). This feeling of love and affection, whether it be with a pet or another person, naturally generates positive emotions, boosts spirits, and counteracts the toxic effects of stress.
Hope: When a person has a reason to feel hopeful, stress and anxiety melt away. In regards to this practice, Boyatzis encourages people to create a vision of their ideal future, focusing on being detailed and enthusiastic. In other words, what would your dream-come-true look like? Where would you be? Who would you be with? For this exercise to be meaningful and relevant, the vision should be no than 10 to 12 years in the future—long enough to get some mileage in, but not so long that you can’t see yourself living it.
Laughter: Lastly, it is key that you lighten up and play! The natural endorphins that are released in our bodies as we laugh and goof around are very healthy! Take time to lighten up! Watch a funny movie or a quick silly YouTube cat video. This quick timeout to laugh will yield incredible results and increase your positivity ratio!
On a final note, Barbara Fredrickson (Positivity) highlights the importance of making these moments of positivity last by relishing them a bit longer to prolong their benefits. When these practices are adopted regularly, the negative effects of chronic stress will melt away, and you will be better equipped to deal with life’s little annoying challenges.
What daily renewal activities do you practice? How do they make you feel? How do you schedule them into your day? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a response in the comment box below!
DID YOU KNOW???