by John P Erwin, III – “The Heart Doctor”
I’m within ten days of a major life transition (details to be forthcoming next week in a separate blog post). Not that this doesn’t add enough complexity into life, but now our world is also dealing with a Pandemic – one of a magnitude which has not been seen in my lifetime.
Now- I’ve never been overly prone to ill-effects of stress or anxiety, aside from the irritable bowel issues that most of my teammates and I shared in various athletic endeavors of my youth. This was especially “pandemic” on my NCAA football team where the trainers actually gave most of us loperamide before games to get us to the point that we could go out on the field and not spend undue time in the “locker room”…but that is a story for another time!
No, the inspiration for this blog post came as a culmination of my preparation for my life transition as well as simultaneously observing how many in the public are responding to our current challenges as a society. Stress is part of our lives. It always has been and always will be. It is what we do with stress that truly becomes the story and theme of each of our lives. Unprecedented times can also bring unprecedented stress, so we need to all learn what to do about that. Avoid the temptation to lay blame on politicians, your boss, or your situation in life. None of these are responsible for your response to stress. One would also do well to keep in mind that unprecedented stress can also be a turning point for major breakthroughs and eventual successes.
In my attempt to introduce those of you who are not familiar with the concept of “eustress”, let me illustrate with another football story:
Let’s suppose I went into a game with no stress at all- what my med school pharmacology professor called the “Super-chill California surfer zone of the stress curve” as he described the concept during a lecture about benzodiazepines. If I were to line up in this “Jeff Spicoli zone” and was facing on the other side of the line of scrimmage, a person equal or better my size, strength, and speed, at the snap of the ball, the odds are that I would’ve gotten my ever-loving head knocked off and ended the play sprawled out on my back. This, too, is what life can do to you without enough “healthy tension” or eustress. It tends to lead to underperformance. On the other hand, if I was in such a high state of stress and anxiety that I could not remember the plays or the snap count, countless errors will occur that will, more often than not, lead me to living a life of playing for the “losing team”.
Our best performance requires us to have some degree of healthy stress. It also requires that we develop a good internal monitor as to when that stress level has moved us out of our peak performance zone. The unfortunate thing is that we all react differently when we have moved out of “the zone”. Some exhibit fatigue and the spectrum of the classical features of clinical depression. Others respond by being more agitated, hypervigilant, and irritable. Of course, there can be overlap in this as well – everyone is a bit different.
My advice to you in these ever-changing and somewhat chaotic times is to check your “stress pulse” regularly.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” – Proverbs 4:23
Are you responding to external stimuli and events in productive ways?
Are you getting the outcomes that you optimally desire with your efforts?
…Or are you bored, or does it seem that everything you touch turns south?
If it’s the latter, consider whether you’re handling your stress well.
If not, remember that it requires a harmony in attention to mind, body, and soul to keep our human state in peak performance. Are you neglecting one or more of these?
Take inventory for yourself and take each of these aspects to their respective “gyms” for a workout!
To strengthen the body’s muscles, exercise; the mind’s muscles, read; the heart’s muscle’s, laugh; and the soul’s muscles, love.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
– I Peter1:13