Have you ever observed Mikhail Baryshnikov’s feet?
with John Evans Jr, EdD
You can say a lot of things about the great ballet dancer’s instruments of delivery, but you cannot say they are stress free.
Stress gets a bad rap these days. And for good reason. A recent, comprehensive study on stress conducted by Janus Henderson Investors, Financial Planning Association and Investopedia, provided sobering but unexpected results: More than half of consumers say they want a plan to manage or reduce the level of stress in their lives.
Furthermore, 75% of consumers say a reduction in negative stress would have a positive impact on their personal relationships.
These statistics reinforce what we all sense happening around us. Despite having more information about what to do help people manage stress effectively, we still struggle to take action on insight. Most people claim that too much to do and not enough time keeps them from prioritizing self-care, but we all know that time without energy is void of value.
If wisdom is defined as the quality of one’s questions, let’s humbly start here: What is wealth without health, anyways?
We adults find ourselves running about frenetically, in service to our careers, proclaiming to be supporting our families and loved ones. But are we really serving our careers and families well when not properly taking care of ourselves to reconcile our rampant stress levels? As our research indicates, we are becoming more and more distracted, irritable, easily enervated, sleep deprived, less creative, and perhaps most importantly, we are losing psychological bonds with the people who matter most.
A primary villain of this narrative is none other than multitasking with our digital devices. Want to increase your irrelevance and drain positive energy reserves, both emotionally and mentally? Easy enough, just go ahead and increase your level of multitasking on your smartphone. We think we are being clever, and increasing our productivity when we do so. But, according to recent research, we are being deceived.
If there is one habit we could strenuously encourage you to put in place as a result of this piece, it’s this: Set stringent boundaries on the use of your smart phone.
But we maintain stress is misunderstood. Let’s return to the great ballet dancer’s feet, which we hope you have perused by now. To be clear, Mikhail Baryshnikov is one of the greatest entertainers the world has ever known, casting joy to millions. His life, or any other great life you can imagine, is not stress-free. Far from it, in fact.
Here’s our plea, stemming from the research. If you are earnest about increasing your mental and emotional cognitive reserves, you must commit to increasing the level of physical stress in your life.
Question: Have you ever returned from a yoga class or jog or vigorous bike ride, and concluded, ‘Gosh, what a waste of time that was.’?
We have a radical shortfall of physical stress strategies in our lives. The great Russian dancer’s feet are Exhibits A and B. Appropriate dashes of physical grit and grind heal the soul and regenerate the mind.
But wait, there’s more.
Not only are we exhorting you to manage your smart phone with boundaries and increase your physical stress outputs, there’s another critical piece: Can you increase your capacity for creative gestures beyond self?
Let’s call it the spiritual realm. Humans are a mission-centered species. In other words, we operate as our best selves when we are investing energy towards a cause greater than self. Again, its paradoxical… by increasing our engagement and grit for the betterment of others, we regenerate ourselves.
After all, we all know that life is not about how many breaths you take, but rather how many times you take someone else’s away. In a good way. Now that’s dancing through our shared stress for success.
For more resources on how to combat stress and to download the full study, visit: www.janushenderson.com/waronstress
Heidi Hanna, PhD is the Director of Education for the American Institute of Stress and a member of the Everyday Health Scientific Advisory Board. She is the author of Stressaholic, The Sharp Solution, and Recharge.
John Evans, Jr., EdD is Executive Director of Janus Henderson Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development, a practice-management consulting division of Janus Henderson Investors, and author of “WOW 2.0: Igniting Your Business and Your Life” and “The Takeaway: A Raucous Tale About the Art of the Sale.”