What would happen if you were to take your car on the highway, press the gas pedal to the floor and drive without slowing or stopping? I think we could make a safe bet that sooner or later, your car would run out of gas…at worst, you could possibly damage the engine.
That’s what we can loosely call a burnout. If we push ourselves to the maximum effort without slowing down, easing off the gas pedal regularly and stopping to refill our ‘gas tank’, then our bodies are going to be so stressed, they’ll have to say NO MORE!
This isn’t rocket science. With not enough fuel, rest and relaxation (especially from our thoughts), our bodies will force us to stop.
What is causing most of our stress? According to 30 years of research from Dr. Derek Roger (one of the world’s leading researchers on stress and resilience), all stress comes down to something called rumination.
“Rumination is the mental process of thinking over and over about something, which happened either in the past or could happen in the future, and attaching negative emotion to it.
Ruminations about the future are associated with “what if this happens'” or “what if that happens.” Ruminations about the past replay, over and over, some awful experience you had and usually end with, “if only I had …” or “I should have done …””
In last month’s posting, More Thoughts about Thoughts, I cited Dr. Robert Sapolsky, who has researched stress in humans for more than three decades. He says that we are constantly bombarding our bodies with a stress reaction, not from any imminent physical danger but from the imagined danger our minds have created.
Add to that, the abuse that poor diet and lack of exercise contributes to what our bodies have to undergo, and it’s no wonder that stress reactions underlie an estimated 75 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians in the U.S.A.
We need to become much more mindful about the quality of our thoughts. We need to stop creating fiction for ourselves. We need to start being kinder to ourselves.
Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to be successful in suspending judgmental thoughts. Take time for reflection on a daily basis. Focus on just breathing – something so simple, yet so essential that we forget we’re doing it or how we should be doing it.
Don’t beat yourself up because you can’t shut down your thoughts. Our brains are made to produce thoughts. Last week, a participant in a training I was giving shared a metaphor. Trying to shut down our thoughts is like standing in the middle of a highway, flagging cars zooming at us at 100 km per hour from both directions in an attempt to stop. Your thoughts won’t stop (estimates say we have circa 42 per minute). However, you can find the peace that comes when you just sit on the side of the road and watch the cars go by. It’s all about non-judgment. Acceptance. Oeps, there is that thought again. Bye, bye.
Encourage your inner coach instead of letting your inner critic have all the ‘voice’ time. And when that inner critic does speak so loudly that you can’t ignore it, embrace it. After all, what is this voice? Only your subconscious doing its best to protect you – usually in a not very helpful way. So acknowledge this voice without beating yourself up. Go to a quiet place inside yourself and through reflection, you will find peace. That inner voice will become still because it knows (you know) that you’re taking care of yourself.
Just in case you need some more encouragement, check out this Forbes article: Stress Kills – Unless You Choose To Proactively Combat Its Harmful Effects