May is Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others. Mental health is more than the absence of a mental illness—it’s essential to your overall health and quality of life. Self-care can play a role in maintaining your mental health and help support your treatment and recovery if you have a mental illness." And finding stress-management strategies plays into self-care.
In this excerpt from Barry Shore's new book, "The JOY of LIVING: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy" (which launches May 11), the self-described “Ambassador of Joy” outlines some of life's stressors and their effect. In it, you'll see that Shore capitalizes every reference to You or Yourself to remind us to pay attention to ourselves.
The Problem: STRESS…Kills!
Not directly. More like death by a thousand sighs.
It’s insidious. Invidious, invasive, and, if continuous and not stopped, will ruin Your physical, mental, and spiritual being.
Stress is a common occurrence. While You can’t remove every stressor from Your life, it’s possible to manage and reduce stress and maintain your health. This is important because chronic stress can cause mental fatigue, irritability, sleeplessness, obesity, skin ailments, heart issues, anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal problems.
Yes, that list of symptoms observed across the population tells You that You’re not alone in this battle.
But even when You know the physical and mental effects of stress, You may be unaware of the different stages of stress, known as general adaptation syndrome (GAS). When You understand the different stages of stress and how the body responds in these stages, it’s easier to identify signs of chronic stress in Yourself.
I’m writing this in the year 2020. The world is beset with panic, disease, and economic and societal ruin.
Right now, the most searched word in the world after Covid (and its related causes/cures) is STRESS. It’s affecting everyone.
STRESS is an acronym that I use to describe how to deal with the effects of untoward circumstances. Essentially there are three factors that cause STRESS.
These are and have always been:
Yes, these are universal and constant. Even in the best of times.
There are however two divergent ways to deal with STRESS, both revealed in my insights.
STRESS can stand for: Stomach-Turning Reality…Enabling Self-Sabotage.
There is little need to go into depth regarding each of the three stressors above. It is self-evident that money issues can and do cause tremendous pressures. The same for work. And, certainly, for home/family. Often in times of recession and disaster, these factors are intertwined and exacerbate one another. They truly cause a stomach-turning reality.
STRESS can also mean: Stomach-Turning Reality…Enabling Self-Success.
Same exact situation/s dealt with in a different way/s. Your response to the stomach-turning reality makes all the difference. Struggling is the continual and real test of life. And it’s something we all face every single day.
How You deal with the reality of these issues determines how Your physical and mental wellbeing will be affected. Certainly, You can’t be cavalier. Yet You can utilize practices, tips, and tools to enable You to direct Your mind and guide Your body to avoid falling prey to a pity party which can lead to the use/abuse of medications, alcohol, or to other aberrant behavior.
Mind is the master. Once You grasp this fundamental fact and leverage this powerful tool, You can and will achieve success under all circumstances and vicissitudes.
How do You maintain inner strength during stressful periods?
Consider a submarine. As the ship goes down, the pressure (strength) inside needs to increase to counterbalance the pressure outside. Likewise, when we are in stressful situations, we must make sure our internal strength is adequate to offset the external forces pushing against us.
Anger also produces stress. Have You ever known people whose lives seemed to have a thin veneer of civility and calm, yet once the surface was scratched, anger bubbled up like a volcano? Stress and anger go hand-in-glove.
We also know that there are two types of stress: vertical and horizontal. The vertical is healthy because it pulls You up. Think of a flower on a stem. Without turgor pressure, the stem droops. Without the fluids pushing through the cells, the flower dies. We can grow limp as well. A useful example of the sort of pressure that pulls us up is the sense of awe or reverence of God.
Horizontal stresses pull us apart and create damage. Designing our lives to meet others’ demands and standards is horizontal. All the current talk about self-image leads to horizontal stress. I do not mean that we should have no concept of self-worth. But we want to have a clear definition of self-worth that comes from knowing we were brought into this world for a purpose. That knowledge is a settled knowledge and doesn’t change just because of what others think or say.
In our competitive society there is another prevailing stress—the fear of losing. The specter of losing by our choosing stresses us. When we make one decision, we give up other options. These are the “Y” points. Marriage and career are two of the biggest examples. One of the pitfalls of our current day is buyer’s remorse. “If I choose the left fork and it grows dull, I opt out and choose another road.” This is a mistake. The stress of always looking around for the better option steals the joy of commitment.
The true test of life is never in what happens to us.
It is always in how we choose to respond to situations.
As we’ll learn later in the 11 Strategies, the six most important words You can learn and internalize are:
Choice, not chance, determines Your destiny.
Repeat this. Often. Think about it. Internalize and utilize.
Choice, not chance, determines Your destiny.
ABOUT AUTHOR BARRY SHORE:
Known as the “Ambassador of JOY,” Barry Shore is a mental health activist, philanthropist, multi-patent holding entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster, and former quadriplegic. After a rare disease paralyzed Shore from the neck down, he created the JOY of LIVING Institute™ (a platform that teaches people to live in joy, no matter the situation), Keep Smiling (a movement that has reached multiple celebrities and distributed millions of "Keep Smiling" cards worldwide), and Changebowl (a philanthropic platform featured in Oprah Magazine.) Barry's podcast, The JOY of LIVING, is heard globally by hundreds of thousands and has over two million downloads.
“The JOY of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy" by Barry Shore is available on Amazon and Apple Books. For more information, visit Shore's website.
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Originally posted on Modern Salon