Is Stress Chipping Away At Your Life?Oct 12, 2022
I remember making the conscious decision to increase the difficulty of my life in every way possible. I look back and remember believing that if life was fun and enjoyable - easy - then I needed to crank up the difficulty. If I was exercising, I needed to punish myself more. If work was too easy, I needed to make it harder or take on more. If I was enjoying my day, I wasn't pushing hard enough.
Wow. I remember those times like it was yesterday. In fact, there are still times where I question if it's ok to enjoy my life. It seems old habits are hard to break.
I understand that some people are so growth oriented that they are constantly pushing themselves on purpose. I also see people, just like me in the past, that want to relax but can't. The difference between these people can be assessed with one single question: Are you enjoying your life? If the answer to that question is yes, keep going. If the answer is no, I'm encouraging you to consider another approach.
If you think about it we have 80-90 years (on average) to live. There's no reward for living a punishing life. I've concluded that if you're not enjoying your life, you're doing it wrong - for you.
You get to decide if you are enjoying life. A life of unintentional struggle creates stress. Stress simply means that you are living out of alignment with your true nature. What's stress? Let's dive a little deeper.
What is Stress?
The human body has this amazing functionality to keep us alive. The amygdala, which is the size of two almonds together, sets at the brainstem at the top of the spine. The amygdala has one purpose - to signal danger to get us to react to avoid the threat. This amazing part of our physiology sends a fight, flight, or freeze signal to the rest of the mind and body. It basically fills us with cortisol, the fear hormone, adrenaline, the stress response hormone, and other chemicals to get us to safety.
In other words, these chemicals elevate our body's chemistry and alertness to attack or defend. What a gift the amygdala is. It is our primary survival mechanism. It really has our best interest in mind. However, there's some downsides to a body flooded with fear and stress hormones; the body immediately begins to breakdown because of the intensity of our state. In essence, we potentially shorten our life each time we go into survival mode.
I guess this is fair - we trade a little of the end of our life to maintain our life. Sounds like a fair trade to me. But there's another problem. In our evolved world where the fight for survival is no longer threats from other animals, we've replaced those threats with accumulation, achievement, and people trained to use our fears against us.
With physiology designed for short-term survival impulses which normalize after the threat is gone, we're living in a society where we get into survival mode and get stuck there. Unless we become aware, we live a life of stress and struggle, and it's become so normalized we believe that that's just how life is.
The unconscious life is one of a constant state of survival in our health, jobs, families, and a fast-paced modern lifestyle. Stress is literally chipping away at our lives.
Are You Listening to What Stress is Telling You?
For 43 years I felt like I was fighting life. But if we fight life, life will win. If we listen to and pay attention to our body, it will tell us if we are on our natural path. That's what stress is intended to do. It is there to tell us if we are fighting or flowing with life. A body full of stress is always on high alert. In this case, life appears dangerous, and we wait for the shoe to drop. Our bodies are prepared for negative consequences even when negative consequences aren't likely or realistic.
Listen to your body. Your internal peace will be impacted, and so will your eating and sleeping patterns. Your emotions will be heightened, you will react impulsively, get angry more easily, demonstrate more irritability, and struggle to feel calm and grounded.
These signals mean that you need to make some adjustments to your thoughts, emotions, decisions, direction, or environment. A body full of stress is a ticking time bomb. This lifestyle leads to disease and medical conditions created by a breakdown in the effective and efficient function of the mind and body. The problem is that we have conditioned ourselves to believe this is our natural state - but it's not. This is a sign of real danger to come - not from your external world, but from the destruction happening inside of you.
Success Without the Stress
There are some people who value accumulation, achievement, and accomplishment more than their own physical, mental, and emotional health. I was one of them before everything fell apart in my life. I was so full of insecurity (fear of loss), inadequacy (not feeling good enough), and insignificance (not feeling like you matter) that I thought external achievement and attainment would solve these internal conditions. I was trying to solve emotional problem with titles and possessions. Nothing outside of you can resolve internal conflicts.
The problem wasn't that I was working towards creating more in my life. The problem was that I didn't understand what was happening inside of me, I didn't understand the real purpose of my life, and I didn't understand how to live my purpose in the most authentic and genuine way possible. Once I stepped on my natural path, stress started to naturally dissolve.
I believe that human beings are designed to work, but if what we're working for is only for our own security or benefit, then we're going to create unnecessary stress. If our intention is to feel secure, adequate, or significant, we are going to become even more of the opposite of those things.
But when we are in full alignment with our unique design, it's like a new world of peace, love, and joy opens to us. All we must do is ask the right questions and make the right choices.
I challenge you to ask yourself these three questions regularly to get more clarity as your life continues to evolve.
- Who am I? Let me give you a hint here - If it's temporary or could change, it's not you.
- What is the purpose of my life? Another hint - It's never about accumulation, achievement, or accomplishment, but serves others in a powerful, impactful way.
- How can I increase the level of purpose I am demonstrated today? Last hint - the more you demonstrate your purpose, the easier and more fun your life will get.
Spend some time with these questions to get onto your path. But here's the final question that might help you gain commitment to explore these questions:
Do you really want your life to continue to shorten under the pressure of your current premature survival impulses? The more I think about the choice between stress and real joy in every second of my life, I choose joy. I hope you do too.