One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”
The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?”
“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer.
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling.
The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.
“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.
The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”
Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”
Story: Heinrich Boll
Do We Buy Into Stress?
Are we running programs that set us up for stress and worry? From the home to traffic, the venue of high stake negotiations, a relationship problem or watching the 6 o’clock news, your body’s stress response can be triggered at any time.
Stress can prepare your body to handle difficult or unfamiliar situations by regulating the physiological functions necessary for challenges and difficulties which becomes harmful when it is constant. Chronic stress shouldn’t be viewed as normal. It poses serious damage to your health and can affect your behaviours in the long run.
However, have you ever wondered if you unconsciously make choices that create unnecessary stress and trauma?
What is Stress?
Stress is difficult to define, but we know what it feels like from our experience.
You are an accumulation of your past, so if your past contains stress and anxiety then those emotions will be still with you. Your stress levels change when you change or make different choices and address your past.
Stress is a physical, mental, and psychological factor that causes tension. It comes from events that trigger frustration, anger, and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
Stress can be beneficial and serve as a motivator to survive and thrive. It can help you move forward when stuck but when it doesn’t go away it becomes a problem.
Causes of Stress
According to research, vulnerability to stress varies among individuals, and these differences are driven by coping style, personality, genetics, and others.
You may have noticed that you cope better in some situations that others find overwhelming.
Here are some stress triggers you may have experienced:
- Too much responsibility
- Indecisiveness and lack of understanding/knowledge
- Feeling powerless
- Living in a dangerous neighbourhood
- Discrimination and harrasment
- Death of a loved one
- Relationship issues
- Traumatic violent events
- Changing jobs
- Financial problems
- Moving to a new home
For women, unique roles such as caregiving often contribute to stress.
While there are a large number of stress triggers, many can be explained by four basic principles.
1. Attitudes and Coping Style
Your attitude and perceptions of life events influence your body’s stress response.
For example, expressing positive thoughts and resolutions following a loss will reduce your stress level. But if your outlook is negative, you will be more stressed out by similar circumstances.
2. Fear and Uncertainty
Any fear real or imagined may put your body under stress.
We like to feel in control of our lives but traumatic and unpredictable events rob us of such assurance.
When you are regularly exposed or even read about the threats of terror, crimes, and natural disasters, you may suffer from prolonged stress.
Even if the triggering event for fear is very rare, your brain may still consider it as an existential threat in need of constant vigilance.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
This can go both ways. If you expect everything to work out perfectly, you are likely to be disappointed and experience intense stress. Alternatively, always expecting bad outcomes can be draining and may lead to the development of stressful behaviours.
4. Life Changes
We all appreciate stability but abrupt deviations from our normal routine can lead to stress because our plans are no longer reliable.
Any major change in our lives or environment can cause stress. This can result from a job loss or getting married.
Effect of Stress
Some ways in which stress can affect your life are discussed below
Cognitive and Emotional Effect of Stress
Long-term stress has been found to cause physical changes in brain structure and volume. These changes can lead to a wide variety of cognitive and emotional impairment including:
- Poor judgment
- Lack of focus and forgetfulness
Prolong inflammatory reactions due to stress have serious consequences on mental health.
Chronic stress produces similar brain-altering patterns as depression and since the brain influences every part of the body, the effects can be far-reaching. Stressful events can also set off symptoms of psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder.
Physical Effects of Stress
Stress also produces physical symptoms.
Acute stress response can increase blood pressure and promote indigestion.
Studies have established links between chronic stress and various types of diseases such as heart attack and hypertension.
High blood pressure, obesity, and menstrual problems can also arise from leading a very stressful life.
Behavioural Effects of Stress
In order to cope with stress, some people adopt harmful and destructive behaviours such as drug and alcohol abuse.
Other behavioural effects of stress include a change in appetite, procrastination and social nervousness associated with poor self-confidence
Those prone to addiction tend to suffer more as the unhealthy lifestyles they engage in to deal with stress makes the stress worse.
Other Health Effects of Stress
Stress lowers immunity by causing an imbalance in the body’s immune cells. According to various studies, chronic stress suppresses the body’s immune response. Prolonged stress also accelerates the development of ulcer and auto-immune disease.
How to Relieve Stress
The following are various ways you can reduce stress and live a fulfilling and healthy life:
- Exercise regularly to improve mental health
- Keep a positive attitude towards life
- Reduce intake of stimulants such as caffeine
- Express gratitude in thoughts and writing
- Spend time friends and family for social support
- Take control of your life by learning to say “No” when overwhelmed
- Join a Yoga class to lower stress hormone
- Seek help from a practitioner, join a Live or Online self-development class
- Adopt a pet
- Develop new hobbies
- Remove stresses or triggers if possible ie News and Media
It seems clear that stress is a serious issue that can affect your personal and professional life. The moral of the story is that it is not worth living in stress. Take steps to reduce stress today.
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