Hi everyone and welcome to Soul Food – Episode number 4.
Today I want to talk to you about stress – something we all have to deal with. Stress means pressure. It’s a feeling of emotional or physical tension usually caused by some event that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or even in danger. A certain amount of stress is a normal part of life. But too much stress can be detrimental to our well-being.
The first kind of stress is external stress. It comes from outside of us – the world we live in, the people around us, the challenges and problems we have to negotiate, and the everyday circumstances of life. For most of us, there’s a fair amount of external stress we have to negotiate, especially during this current COVID-19 global pandemic.
But today I want to talk to you about internal stress – the stress we carry on the inside of us.
You know, we all have different capacities when it comes to handling stress. Imagine you have 100 units of stress coping ability. That means you can handle up to 100 units of stress and still be okay.
Here’s a simple diagram to illustrate this.
Yes, that’s a picture of me back when my hair was bright red.
In this example, as long as the stress in our life is 100 units or less, we can cope. But if it gets higher, we are in dangerous territory.
But imagine if we are using 80 of our stress coping ability units on internal stress. How much external stress can we handle? Not much! Only 20 units.
Have you ever seen a person where a little thing happens to them, something minor, and they just lose it? And you think, “What was up with that!?” I’d like to suggest to you that it wasn’t the little thing – it was the fact that the little thing was one thing to many. It pushed them over the edge.
So where does internal stress come from? Good question.
There are many sources of internal stress. Today I want to speak about one common one – unrealistic expectations.
All of us carry unrealistic expectations – about ourselves, about other people, and about life in general. And this creates stress on the inside of us.
I remember talking to a counsellor once about my task addiction. He asked me if I used a task list. I said, I sure do and its a really long one. He asked what I did when I finished the day and hadn’t completed the list. I told him I simply transferred the tasks to the next day. We then explored how my unrealistic expectations about what I could accomplish in a day often left me focused on what I HADN’T DONE rather than celebrating what I HAD done. I’ll never forget him asking me what it would be like to only make a list of what I COULD realistically accomplish in a day.
I remember becoming a leader of a church when I was quite young. My expectation was that I would be able to solve all of the problems in the church. But I found that as soon as I worked through one issue, another set of problems arrived at my doorstep the next morning. I had to adjust my expectations to the fact that life is simply a series of challenges we have to work through.
Well-known business consultant Jim Collins recommends that businesses set 5 new goals for each new year AND decide to STOP doing 5 things (see Jim’s insightful article on creating a Stop Doing List). The fact is that most businesses and most people only ADD more and more and never STOP doing things … creating all sorts of unrealistic expectations that are impossible to achieve.
What about you? What are your unrealistic expectations?
Do you expect to always have it together, to never fail, to never make a mistake? Do you expect everyone to like you, people to always be nice, and everyone to think just like you do? Do you expect every item on your shopping list to be in stock at the store, the sun to always shine, nothing to ever break, and COVID-19 to be over next week?
Unrealistic expectations create stress on the inside of us … and limit our ability to handle the inevitable external stresses that come our way.
What would it look like for you to adjust your expectations – to embrace some ‘reality thinking’?
Let’s recap our main points:
That’s all for today. Once again, I’d love to hear some comments back from you and why not talk about this internal stress with your family and friends today.
This has been Soul Food with Mark Conner.
See you next week when we continue talking about dealing with internal stress.
See you then!