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‘The S word…’

So there’s this word that punctuates most of our conversations on social occasions, and shockingly I have even noticed it entering the conversation of my children.

Saying good night, when the light is out and I’m about to close my son’s door to finally spend a few minutes alone is normally the moment when one of my sons comes out with a closely held secret, or a guilty confession.

Towards the end of the school term, my 13 year old sent this parting shot, “Mom, I am so stressed!”

Now there’s a word that is loaded with meaning and which we bandy about a bit like we used to swap recipes or speak of a recurring headache. Here follows my disclaimer;

this is not a list, disguised as a blog of how you should get more sleep, exercise more and follow a strict eating regime!

So I attempt to teach this stuff to some of my clients, either individually during coaching or as part of a team; often management or senior management. Recently I myself attended a breakfast session where the speaker had us doing 20 squats during her keynote address to try and demonstrate how invigorated we can feel from just 30 seconds of exercise, regardless of the setting.

Now it was hard enough to get myself out of bed that frigid winter morning, together with the fact that it had taken quite some courage to even attend a networking breakfast alone, with the intention of building my profile and sharpening my training artillery. So I can’t say I appreciated trying to squat in my non-stretch trousers of my power suit, after a breakfast of scrambled eggs!

But I DO concede that exercise helps me ‘destress’ and that as much as I detest pounding the pavement, it can offer a welcome relief after a day’s sedentary facilitation or coaching activity. However I’ve discovered a better option over the years and that is my childhood love of dance. Not only does it offer me some exercise, but it taxes my brain and I believe gets some connections going (call it, sparking neural synapses) that I don’t access during my average day.

And here’s the real rub for me; as an A type personality, busyness is close to godliness. And with the advent of smart phones and TV, it has resulted in some really dumb behaviour. I recently engaged in a Facebook fast, had to forcibly wean myself from checking my cell phone at red traffic lights and suffered two days of withdrawal before I could experience a holiday in the bush without a laptop!

What the neuroscience is saying, is that your brain becomes so accustomed to the constant stimulation, that “you grow antsy and irritable when you don’t have that input”.

Furthermore, your ability to focus or engage in anything creative is significantly reduced.

Now that’s a real problem for any adult trying to engage in productive work, and even a greater problem for our children, who speak of being ‘stressed’!

So the point is that stress, however you define it, is a part of our daily lives and it is here to stay. If I want to be more focused, and even a tad creative, I need to use the ‘s’ word to enhance the build-up of adrenaline to motivate, and lower the cortisol levels associated with negative or chronic stress, by resisting the temptation to grab those mini dopamine hits on my phone every few minutes.

So I chose, when writing this blog, to just write this blog and not to pay attention to my vibrating cell phone, inbox icon or pinging whatsapp. It has been difficult I can assure you, but all this fragmented thinking, aside from making us less productive, just adds to our stress load, and it’s all literally in our hands.

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