I may have been in a bit of mood the other day when I wrote this post.
But, if I put away my skeptic, I can admit that I think it’s important to manage stress. But to manage it, I need to understand what stress is. And I do want to better deal with it, especially as stress kills creativity. Hard to write Romance with dead creativity.
So, I did some research.
In a nutshell, stress is a physical response. Your body thinks it’s under attack and goes into fight or flight mode. Your body releases a whole bunch of hormones preparing you for physical action.
Despite what we’ve been told, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. During our hunter-gatherer days, this helped us escape from predators or defend ourselves and our tribes.
Where the issue comes is that our bodies haven’t adapted to modern life.
A boss with an impossible deadline triggers the same fight or flight mode as a lion trying to eat you. With a lion, we need the physical response to either flee or fight back. But this is not the best reaction in a modern environment. Here, we’d be better served if we our physical response was focused calm so we can at least try to make the deadline.
So, in addition to our evolutionary response not helping us in this situation, it also means we don’t have the opportunity to burn off those stress hormones. Not a lot of running while trying to piece together that report the boss wants. This is what causes the jittery feelings and racing heartbeat.
So, how do we deal with it?
The one thing that’s helped me the most is learning that the racing heartbeat and other aspects of stress are frequently caused by a physical hormonal response. These hormones need to be burned off, and I’ve started doing that by walking.
I try for at least a 30 minute walk at lunch, and this has helped tremendously. I burn off all my pent up stress hormones and come back to the afternoon more focused.
Sometimes, this isn’t enough, and I take a brisk walk through the halls. Other times, I’ll walk out to the lunchroom and back. Something, anything, to get me up, get me moving, and burn those stress hormones.
Now that I know stress is physiological in nature, it helps me deal with it.
My bigger issue is when I don’t have an outlet. While we are now in daylight savings time again, it’s dark when I get up in the morning, it’s dark by the time I get dinner on the table at night.
Better though than two months ago when I seldom saw the sun.
This means walking before work or in the evenings is a no-go at the moment.
I’m still trying to figure something out, especially with the kids. I have a treadmill and an elliptical in our finished basement, but it’s an act of Congress to get down there. Including the negotiating, pleading, and filibustering.
But I am working on it. I started making a play space for them downstairs so that they have something to do other than pester me while I’m trying to listen to an audiobook and burn some stress.
What do you do to deal with stress? Do you find it easier to cope with stress with physical activity?