Friday, July 18, 2014

Focus: More Stress Now = Less Stress Later

I'm not going to lie to you. Finding your calm requires a down payment of stress. Some stress.

I don't see any way around it. But still, you are in control of how much you will add at a time. Let me explain.

18 months ago, I decided to begin making green smoothies every day for breakfast. It seemed weird to me. I didn't know anyone else that did it, and the people I told about it screwed up their faces into a pile of wrinkles to show that it sounded disgusting. 

But I was dealing with arthritis pain and I wanted to try.  I figured - what could it hurt?

And it paid off. 

It was hard at first. And it took some tweaking, but I was committed to the project for at least 6 months anyway. And six months in, I had lost 10 pounds and felt better!

Every day drinking green smoothies got easier. After a few months I was able to add more healthy eating choices. I didn't do it all at once. Some can. I couldn't.

Another example: 8 months ago, someone I respected told me that to see the results I wanted, I would have to start exercising. I was not excited about this because I always seemed to exacerbate my arthritis pain whenever I started working out. This had shut me down at least three other times in the past three or four years. 

But I was pretty sure I could walk without hurting myself. So I started walking. And walking initially added stress to my life. I had to figure out where I was going to walk, what I was going to wear (sounds girly), and how I was going to manage the time. 

But I was committed to trying. And trying meant doing it for at least three months. I started walking.  First it was twice a week. But within two weeks, I was walking five times a week, thirty minutes a day! The walking was hard too. But I felt good. And my stress melted, and dripped away with the sweat.

It started with easy walking. Then, I added strength training. Easy stuff like doing push ups off the wall and furniture. 

Now I do a full body, body weight workout, three days a week. I do body weight workouts (instead of lifting weight) to help keep myself from injuring myself. And some days I don't want to do it, but I do it anyway. And when I get tired of it, I tweak it to make it different. A year couldn't picture myself doing this. Now, I can't picture myself not doing it.

I decided to quit eating junky snacks. No more candy machine. And no Coca Cola either. This took longer to master than the healthy meals and exercise. 

I had to make sure I always had a bag of apples and some nuts in my drawer. I had to look at the candy bars in the vending machine, walk away, and go get an apple. I had to come prepared to meetings where there might be candy or doughnuts offered with my own healthy snacks. 

Each of these decisions added more stress at the time, but it paid off with less stress.

It is like going to college. College is stressful. You are poor and your time is committed. You have to study and go to class. But when you graduate, it pays off. My college years were the most stressful of my life. Now, decades after graduating, I still enjoy the fruit of my labor. 

Adding exercise and better nutrition to your life will bring you more freedom, but it will be more stressful at first. 

Yet I also think the rewards start showing up quickly in both cases; walking starts to bring noticeable rewards within a couple of weeks, and eating nutrient dense foods begin to make you feel better in a few days.

If you are a teacher, getting started now will be easier than waiting until school begins. Now is always better than later in these things. Usually when we put it off, in our minds what we say is, "I'll start next week," but invariably what happens is that next week we come up with some new pressing reason that makes us want to put it off.

Add a little bit of stress to your life now for payoffs later. Put aside your comfort now for freedom later. 

You did it to get through college. You did it. You have the character to handle this.

You got this.

Just do it.