Reduce As a Line of Defense Against Stress
Reduce works works by helping you find your optimal level of stimulating activities and demands (what some people incorrectly call stress or bad stress respectively).
Stimulating activities are fun things that you enjoy. Demands are things you must do such as clean the house, get your oil changed etc. They are not necessarily stressors, just demands on your time.
Sometimes it isn’t what we do that causes stress, it is how much we take on that is the culprit. When you take on more than you can handle your brain tells your body, “I can’t cope with this.” As soon as this happens your brain initiates the stress response.
The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that even fun activities can become stressors when you take on too many of them at the same time. I’ve found this to be one of the hardest stress lessons to learn. We seem to think that just because activities are fun we can’t get overloaded and we take on more than we can handle.
Years ago, Hans Selye, the father of modern stress research defined stress as the non-specific response of the body to any demand. The demands that he made of his experimental laboratory animals were mostly environmental.
He manipulated conditions such as food deprivation, extremes in climate and lighting, and other stimuli, things that he could control in a laboratory setting. These environmental stimuli were considered demands because they forced (or demanded) his laboratory animals to adapt . In other words, these stimuli demanded adaptation in order to maintain balance (what Selye called homeostasis).
Like Selye’s laboratory animals, when you have too many demands (self-imposed, or by others) you are also thrown out of balance and must adapt by mobilizing energy through the stress response.
Both positive and negative demands require energy, forcing your body to adapt. This is why even fun activities can become stressors if they require too much of your time and energy or if you engage in too many of them without cutting back on other things. The pressure of trying to juggle too many demands can lead to too much stimulation, causing you to feel unable to cope, and therefore stressed.
Reducing your stress begins with examining the choices you make regarding your behavior and how you spend the 24 hours you have each day.
The Goal of Reduce
The goal of Reduce as a line of defense against stress is to find your optimal level of stimulation, that point where you get the most out of what you choose to do without becoming overloaded and therefore stressed.
This is the point where you are operating at peak efficiency. Operating at peak efficiency means that you are getting the most out of your potential. In order to operate at peak efficiency you have to push yourself by taking on more demands or increasing your level of performance regarding specific demands.
If however, you continue to add more demands and stimulation, your performance begins to drop and the same activities become stressors.
“How can this happen?” you ask, if these are the same activities.
What happens is you become overloaded, and you reach a point where you simply can’t keep up with all of the things you are involved in. When this happens you begin to feel threatened by the same activities that you previously viewed as fun or challenges. Once you feel threatened and unable to cope with them, the activities become stressors. When this happens you’ve pushed beyond your optimal level of stimulation and need to start Reducing the demands on your time.
Unfortunately there is no chart to turn to where you can look up your optimal level of demand and stimulation. The only way to find your optimal level of demand and stimulation is through experience.
You must actually go beyond your optimal level to know that you have reached it. When you reach peak efficiency and then decline, you’ve just passed your optimal level of stimulation. Cut back on your demands once you reach this point and you’ll get as close to optimal demand as possible.
One of the most fascinating things about stress is how we all vary in terms of how much and what kinds of stimulation we require to operate at peak efficiency.
Things that I find stimulating and essential to my happiness might bore you to tears. The amount of stimulation you need to be happy and operate at peak efficiency might feel overwhelming to me.
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