Life Lessons in the Real World

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Debilitating Stress, a Warning You are Out of Balance

balance.jpgYour stress is trying to tell you something:  Your obligations exceed your capacities. 

Your job may require cognitive energy, while your partner and children need emotional energy, and your landlord demands financial energy.  

I personally have found it helpful to divide my energy expenditures into four types: cognitive, emotional, physical, and financial.  Whenever my obligations exceed my capacities in any of these four areas, I experience stress.

Imagine you were born with impressive physical gifts – you are strong and fast and healthy. And for years you have been eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. You can walk great distances without getting tired. You feel good when you wake up because your body is a precision machine, ready to move. Because you are physically gifted and fit, you have a high capacity of physical energy.

Now consider what happens if you are asked to carry an 800-pound sofa up the stairs by yourself. Unless you possess superhuman strength, this task will exceed your physical capacity. And I assure you that the result will be stress, quite likely in the form of pain. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that your physical limits are being exceeded. And your other three capacities (cognitive, emotional, and financial) operate by the same basic rules:

  • The capacity of each type of energy is a function of your natural gifts plus personal development.
  • When your obligations exceed your capacities, you feel stress.

Do you have obligations that exceed your capacities? And if so, do you turn to quick fixes like food or cigarettes instead of dealing directly with the problem? Perhaps you are working in a job you hate. Or perhaps you have dysfunctional personal relationships. Or maybe you just have too many obligations pulling you in too many different directions and draining you of so much energy that you cannot take care of your own needs.

I want you to spend a few moments thinking of a situation that exceeded one of your capacities, a situation that lasted for several months and which was not a positive growth experience. What kind of toll did this take on you? If the energy deficit was severe, I’m willing to bet that the stress eventually spread to every area of your life. Unhealthy stress is like a cancer. If not removed, it consumes you.

This brings us to an important point. Your cognitive, emotional, physical, and financial capacities effect each other through two processes: synergy and antagonism. Synergy causes your total capacity to be greater than the sum of its parts, whereas antagonism causes it to be lesser. You might be interested in my introductory article on synergy, which begins to explore how you can live a truly synergistic life that fulfills you, maximizes your potential, and increases your happiness.

But before we start pursuing the lofty goal of purpose fulfillment, you may be interested in spending some time on more immediate concerns, such as building a strong personal foundation or reducing stress

You are Reading an Article Series — Rescue Your Life From Stress!

  1. Series Intro: Rescue Your Life From Stress!
  2. Debilitating Stress, a Warning You are Out of Balance
  3. The Key to Building a Strong Personal Foundation
  4. Control Your Spending
  5. The #1 Mistake Consumers Make with Credit Cards
  6. 3 Steps to Reducing Stress Caused by Unnecessary Obligations

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