The Inspiration of Stress

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    You know that feeling? The one where your heart feels tight, maybe your head spins a bit, it feels like someone has placed needles between your eyes and clamped a vice to each of your shoulders?

    When you feel like this, your focus is fractured and everything, even the lint in between the keys on your keyboard, is more interesting than the task you have before you. Sound familiar? That’s stress.

    Bless us. The power inside each and every one of us is inspiring. However, like the excess of anything, that same power can be self-defeating. Sometimes we allow ourselves to believe that our greatest asset is our ability to “pony up”—to keep our eye on the prize and not stop pushing until we get there. And, sometimes it is. But not always.

    The Gift of Stress

    Stress is a gift. A what? Yep, it’s a gift. When used appropriately, it helps to “rally the troops,” to gather our mental and physical resources and focus them with laser-like precision. It fuels creativity, action, and immense productivity. The problem is not with stress, but with our seemingly diminishing ability to oscillate between periods of stress and recovery. To know when to leverage our stress response in support of a goal and when to allow our bodies the grace of recovering and repairing from the onslaught of cell-damaging stress-related hormones. In fact, many of us are so chronically stressed that we’re unaware of the level of stress we’re experiencing this very moment.

    A 60-Second Experiment

    Sit back in your chair. Put two feel flat on the floor. Roll your shoulders back and away from your ears. Close your eyes (well, finish reading the experiment first…). Now, take three deep breaths. Pull air all the way to the bottom of your belly, hold it there, and let it go. Try two more, just for good measure.

    Feel any different?

    Deep breathing is one of the fastest and most effective ways to mitigate the effects of stress, bring oxygen to your brain, and regain your focus and clarity. Do you think there’s any coincidence that “inspiration” is used to describe both the inhalation of air as well as a timely and brilliant idea?

    So, when cleaning the lint from your keyboard becomes more compelling than the proposal you’re in the midst of writing, be gentle with yourself. Your lack of focus isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s your body’s way of telling your brain to take the backseat for a minute. Your body is smart—trust it and it will certainly continue to inspire your brilliant brain.