Stress is harmful when you believe it is.
We’ve all heard a million times that stress is bad for us and that it’s the cause of most illnesses. So why should we all of a sudden embrace it?
Think about what stress really is: a reaction that occurs when something you care about is at stake. In a 2006 US study, researchers discovered that high levels of stress increased the risk of death by as much as 43 percent. But this was only in people who believed stress was harmful. Those who reported high stress levels but didn’t believe it was harmful, had the lowest risk of death of all participants, leading to the conclusion that stress is harmful – when you believe it is.
One study at Yale University showed that people who looked positively upon old age lived 7.6 years longer. That’s a lot more than the extra four years you earn by exercising and not smoking!
Positivity is a form of belief so powerful that it can influence your body’s health.
Your attitude toward stress is a central part of your mindset which shapes the choices you make in everyday life. If you view stress as harmful, you tend to try and avoid it at all costs. People who view stress as helpful, on the other hand, are more likely to come up with strategies to cope with the source of stress, seek help and make the best of the situation.
Are you a person who faces stress head-on? Chances are you’ll feel more confident about handling life’s challenges.
Take a piece of paper and write down all the things in your average day that could possibly be a stress in your body, mind, and emotions. Probably your list looks something like this:
- boss yelled at me
- rushing around to see clients
- worrying about money
- crummy weather
- kid woke me up early
- snarky interaction with partner/spouse this morning
- Ate some spicy/oily food
If you’re like most people, you’re a camel carrying a big load of straw with these combined life and work stresses. The pile of straw – the cumulative total of all the stuff in your life that causes physical, mental, and/or emotional stress – is known as the allostatic load.
Our body works in interconnected networks. These networks all work to balance stress and overall “load”. Allostasis is the process of adapting to the load to achieve stability. And allostatic load is the cost (wear and tear) of our bodies reaching to get back to homeostasis.
Types of Stress
Some stress is good stress (also called eustress). Good stress pushes you out of your comfort zone, but in a good way. Good stress helps you learn, grow and get stronger. For example, lifting weight at the gym is fun and exciting. It lasts a short time and you feel strong afterwards. Another example can be a roller coaster ride in an amusement park. It lasts a short time and you feel exhilarated afterwards. You feel a little uncomfortable, but then you feel good, and after an hour or so, you’re done. Take a look at good stress and you’ll find good stress:
- is short-lived
- is infrequent
- is over quickly (in a matter of minutes or hours)
- is often part of a positive life experience
- inspires you to action
- helps you build up – and it leaves you better than how you were before
But let’s say you ride that roller coaster constantly, or lift weights four hours a day, every day. Now it doesn’t seem as much fun, does it? Bad stress:
- lasts a long time
- is chronic
- is ongoing
- is negative, depressing, and demoralizing
- demotivates and paralyzes you
- breaks you down – it leaves you worse off than you were before
One key feature that distinguishes good from bad stress is how well the stressor matches your ability to recover from it.
That’s where the stress ‘sweet spot’ comes in. Each of us has a unique ‘recovery zone’, whether that’s physical or psychological. Our recovery zone depends on several factors, such as:
- our age and life experience
- our natural personality type (in other words, are we adventure-seeking adrenaline junkies or calm, sensitive homebodies?)
- our ‘stress resilience’ – how well we cope with and rebound from stress overall
- our allostatic load – the accumulation of everything going on in our lives
Generally, the ‘recovery zone’ looks like this:
- If the stressor is too low – not enough to cause a reaction – then nothing will happen. You’ll go along the same as before, no better or worse.
- If the stressor is too high – too strong, and/or lasts too long, outpacing your recovery ability – then you’ll eventually break down or burn out.
- If the stressor is within your recovery zone – neither too much nor too little, and doesn’t last too long – then you’ll recover from it and get better.
We want enough “good stress” to keep a fire under our butts, but not so much that we break down and burn out.
Your optimum zone depends on you. If your existing pile of straws is already heavy, then it’ll only take a few more straws to break you. As an individual, you need to learn to balance your own life demands, workload, recovery etc.
Your ‘recovery zone’ is found by matching your behaviours and lifestyle to your identity, values, and goals. Living and working in congruence with who you are as a person will reduce your ‘bad stress’ dramatically. To help you take one very small step towards matching your priorities and your coaching work, take a paper and pen and reflect & write answers to these questions:
- What are two mentally stressful things that you experience regularly?
- What are two emotionally stressful things that you experience regularly?
- What are two physically stressful things that you experience regularly?
Are you in your ‘recovery zone’ right now? Yes, No, I am not sure. Considering your answers, what’s one small thing you could do today in order to move closer to your own optimal ‘recovery zone’? Take a moment to write down your action item. Things can only improve if you act on them. An example to understand better: You are sleeping less and that’s making you feel tired or making you less efficient at work. Write down some actionable items – like going to bed half an hour early. Or going off screen couple of hours before sleep.
There are three ways to balance stress and recovery.
Structures are the things and environments that surround us, and the things we put in place to ensure that things get done. For instance, eating junk when you come back from office tired, is your pain area. Then you may want to ensure that your kitchen is full of healthy food and to avoid shopping and keeping those junk at home. Ask yourself: What needs to be around me in order to help me succeed?
Systems are the processes and practices we use to make things happen. For instance, we might have an evening ritual of packing our gym clothes, or a weekend ritual of planning our food for the week. Ask yourself: What needs to happen for me to be effective? What processes and practices need to be in place?
Scheduling. You book an appointment when you have to meet someone. Likewise, we don’t just wait until inspiration strikes – we book a time to hit the gym. We know that at 7:00am on Monday, we should be pumping some iron or running at the track. Ask yourself: How am I planning and scheduling my good habits and desired behaviours? Make time for them in your calendar. Are you living your priorities through your schedule?
Find ways to make adjustments to your schedule that honour your need for recovery and build in time for your own self-care. Remember if you use the stress tool in a balanced and right way, you will grow yourself and if the allostatic load increases, you will burn out and it will effect your health badly.
Actionable Item: Write down on a paper
What “good stress” and “bad stress” am I experiencing today?
How can I put myself into the optimal stress zone?
How could you make some kind of structure, system, or scheduling — work for you?
Think about how to improve your schedule just a little bit. What is one action you could take towards this, this week?
If you are not able to sort it out yourself, get professional help.
How you think about stress REALLY matters.
Turns out, there’s a huge difference between…“Ugh, why does everything in my life have to be so HARD!?”
“This sucks, but I can learn and grow from it.”
In fact, research shows that people with healthier stress mindsets cope better when confronted with stressors. And progress may take WAY less time than you might think, according to a study published in Emotion. The scientists found that right after people did a short journaling exercise, they, immediately and for two weeks after, experienced a better attitude about stress.
Want to try a similar experiment? Do one of these visualization activities:
- Come up with a list of common stressors and write down what someone might learn from them.
- Imagine the top three stressors you think you’ll deal with in the next month. Then detail how you might tackle them and grow from them.
- Spend five minutes jotting down what was most stressful for you in the past week and the positives that came from that stress (no matter how small).
- If you feel like you’re benefiting, keep it up. After all, for mindset changes to take hold long-term, they likely need to be consistently reinforced.
Let’s begin with a simple definition. HIT is usually defined as exercise consisting of repeated bouts high-intensity work performed above the lactate threshold (a perceived effort of “hard” or greater) or critical speed/power, interspersed by periods of low- intensity exercise or complete rest. There are many way that definition can be achieved, however, the graph below provides a broad illustration of the concept. The general basis of high-intensity interval training can be described simply as follows:
Imagine performing a bout of exercise at an intensity above your lactate threshold, or critical velocity/power. To be clear here, this is an exercise intensity that is unsustainable, and one at which your brain would eventually force you to lower your intensity if you were to sustain it for as long as you could. It feels hard, and you know that fatigue would be inevitable at this pace if you were to hold on. Higher levels of sugar-burning glycolysis are needed generally to sustain the energy demand, and lactate accumulates to high levels typically at the point of fatigue. Now, if we took that same high intensity effort and separate it with pauses that include periods of complete rest or lower levels of active recovery, that glycolytic energy rate is eased so that lactate production is more in check, whilst the cardiovascular strain remains high, and perceived effort, although still high, is reduced and manageable.
Body weight few jumps and burpees is not HIIT. In the context of HIIT and the science that underpins it, high intensity means “above 90% VO2 max.” To qualify as an effective HIIT session, you need to accumulate around 10 minutes of work at VO2 Max. That doesn’t mean the workout needs to be only for 10 minutes long, it’s more like 20-30 to accumulate 10 minutes of true ‘red zone’ VO2 maximum intensity work.
Bodyweight exercises, no matter how ‘hard’ they feel and how out of breath they may leave you, will not hit this intensity of effort. Not even close. The best way to do HIIT can be by running, spinning, rowing etc.
By performing such high-intensity work intermittently instead of continuously. a person can maintain high-intensity stimulus for longer, with less accumulated physical strain, and with beneficial adaptations that can be specific to sport demands. While interval training can be associated with a high degree of physical effort, fatigue, and acute discomfort, when applied properly with adequate recovery, it clearly has been shown to elicit rapid improvements in various aspects or performance and physiology.
Only 5 weeks to go for The Growth Retreat, a networking event, I am hosting at Rishikesh from 8-11th December 2022. Every week we bring you a write up by one of the esteemed guest speakers of the Retreat, giving you a sneak peak of what they will be sharing with the participants of the Retreat.
Content Creation – Personal Branding
by Manish Pandey
Let us not sound really boring and preachy if I tell you that oh’ it is a digital world and you have to use the power of the Internet and social media if you have to be ahead of curve and make the most of it. I am not going to get into the numbers and statistics because by the time you read this, it will change and anyways the body remembers numbers. Only I am going to act to sound smart which I do not think I am, at least not more than the readers, LOL
I am sure, all of you professionals – who have built businesses, and leaders who are leading great teams, know it already – and now the real question is – if you have not worked on it even after knowing about it, I do not know what should I call you….
As they say, The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is TODAY. So, the good news is, – You Are Never Late. Congratulations, let us start NOW.
Hello, My name is Manish Pandey, I started my career at age 11 doing odd jobs, kept at it and things led me to the world of the Internet – I took on digital marketing, social media, and networking using the power of social, personal branding, content creation, got a chance to be a part of building Josh Talks with my friends and continue to be a part of it, work with top content creators of the Nation, you must have come across or know of many, a lot of start-ups (both new and established) founders talk to me all the time and the topic of discussion is around – Brand Building, Personal Brand, Telling a better story and I am fortunate to be contributing.
All these experience has given me some good confidence and I look forward to discussing these with you at the Retreat. I am itching to give quick 10 points on How to ….., However – I want to hold myself and keep it for the retreat so that when I meet you all, I have things to talk about, Of course, we are also going to discuss mindfulness – It’s Rishikesh, how can we not indulge into the soul food? Okay, let us also throw a little bit of wildlife and conservation – because – hey our troop leader is Sandeep. The interesting thing is, you are going to get a lot of wildlife references while I talk to you about the art of building an organization’s brand and personal brand.
EXCITED to see you all there!!!
Manish Pandey is a digital marketer working in leadership roles looking after content strategy, working with early-stage start-ups, branding and marketing unit et al. He also works with entrepreneurs to elevate personal brands using video content and social media platforms. Manish has worked with several digital and social media agencies and projects like TEDxGateway. Recently, Manish co-authored a book named ‘Booming Digital Stars’ – covering the aspects of creator economy and stories of 11 most inspiring content creators of India. You can connect with him on twitter @join2manish.