Stress can kill you. Don't let it.

Do you ever get the sense that no matter how much you do it is never good enough? Are there times when you feel unmotivated and exhausted for no reason? How often do you wake up in the morning not wanting to get out of bed?
You feel worse when there is really no reason for you to feel bad.


Your spouse loves you. Your kids are happy. Even your goldfish seems to smile. The sun is shining and the sky is blue, but something is holding you back. You feel unmotivated and despondent?


You labor long and hard at work. At home, you transform to counselor, housekeeper, and problem solver. But to whom can YOU turn for help?
People today are so busy rushing about and toiling to make a living that they forget to make a life. They live from crisis to crisis. Stress becomes a normal expectation, taking pride in the ability to cope.


Yet, recall the tale of a frog in hot water. Dump the frog in a pot of boiling water and he quickly attempts to leap out. But imagine placing the same frog in pot of cool water, then raising the temperature a little bit day after day.


Oblivious to the possibility of relocating to another body of water, the frog adapts to the warming water. Sure, the water is increasingly uncomfortable, and it becomes harder to cope; but the frog keeps on adapting until one day the water is so hot the frog wakes up cooked.


It seems counterintuitive that many people today suffer; yes, suffer; from over-giving to others and under-nurturing themselves. Even as they acknowledge that their generosity and self-sacrifice lead to stress; even when they recognize symptoms of burnout and impending meltdown; they remain oblivious to the possibility of relocating to another body of water.


Such people believe they have a responsibility to sacrifice themselves for others. The unfortunate reality is that a worn out or sick caregiver is not very effective, and a dead one is of no use to anyone. 


The good news is that one need not remain oblivious. The smart frog acknowledges that hot water is an unhealthy environment for amphibians, and begins to look around for options.


In human terms we might express it as “Stress is part of life, but suffering is a choice.” Positive coping with day-to-day challenges is a strength that can be cultivated. It begins with taking care of yourself first.


For example, schedule a daily twenty minutes of personal time for yourself (even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom). Be still and simply experience your own breathing. If twenty minutes is too much, start with five and increase it a little every day.


Take three deep breaths and close your eyes. Focus on long breaths, in and out, relaxing more with each breath. Thoughts will intrude, but just let them pass through as you return attention to your breathing.


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