We have two choices regarding stress. We can either avoid it by ignoring demands (work or personal), and allow it to build up, or manage it by prioritising the stressors, organise them and plan carefully how and when to cope with each. In other words, adopt a self-disciplined and organised approach from the start and keep up to date at all times.
A lecturer, when explaining stress management to a class, raised a glass of water and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g. The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
He continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the demands of life.”
When life’s challenges and demands begin to pile up and pull us out of balance we need to take time to do those things that replenish and restore our physical, mental and emotional well-being. In other words, we need to take “purposeful breaks”: time-limited, fun, relaxing or neutral activities or quiet time by ourselves or with supportive others.
Although us athletes are generally rather loathe to have a rest day, it is important to apply the “putting the glass down” principle in order to avoid burnout. It is also important to use a day in the week or weekends and holidays to spend quality time with family and friends. In this regard, I would like to share the wisdom of two other people with you.
In his 2013 DVD titled Breathing Room, Pastor Andy Stanley says the following:
“It’s problematic if your schedule is so busy that there is no room to fit anything else in. Breathing room is having the time and space to do what you want or need to do. Breathing room is the space between our current pace and our limits. When there is no breathing room, stress levels go up, focus narrows (on problematic areas), and relationships suffer.”
Stanley goes on to say that fear drives many of our bad habits. This includes fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of missing out, or our children missing out, as well as a fear of falling behind, or a fear of not mattering. We equate busyness with how much we matter. Our fear of not mattering much draws us away from the things that matter most. It’s too late to change when we’re older.
Remembering that our time is limited provides us with the wisdom to know how to spend our limited time.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. She said that,
“When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.”
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. (“This came from every male patient that I nursed”).
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. (Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice).
She states that our ability in to let go of the need for control, giving up the insistence that things have to be a certain way, is a courageous gift of freedom. It is also a gift of love and gratitude. By surrendering to life, accepting that change is a natural part of the flow, we learn to appreciate the moment for what it is.
I hope that the above wisdom is useful in assisting you to find balance in your busy lives.
Rest is as important, if not more, than training. Listen to your body.
ITS THE ONLY PLACE YOU HAVE TO LIVE IN