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RESILIENCY SKILLS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY:
How to Add Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life!
Part 2

Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.

This article is the second in a series of articles, written exclusively for EXPERT MAGAZINE readers, and
directed at showing you how to master the stresses in your life---permanently!

Recall from the first installment that symptoms of stress include a whole host of symptoms, including irritability, impatience, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, procrastinating, wondering what meaning your life has, frequent use of sarcasm and a short fuse. 

Also recall that events in your life do not directly cause stress, or any other emotion, attitude or mood, for that matter.  The emotion or attitude that results from an event is strictly caused by what you say to yourself about that event--your internal dialogue. 

Unfortunately, most of us have  been pre-programmed to think negatively the majority of the time.  Well-meaning parents, teachers, uncles, aunts and even siblings (who actually may not have been so well-meaning) have filled us with negative conditioning about how we're not smart enough, pretty enough, athletic enough...
or how we are the wrong sex, race, religion, etc., so we shouldn't try to accomplish or achieve our dreams.

Internal medicine specialists and family practice physicians estimate that at least 65% of their patients actually do not have an underlying medical condition causing their symptoms!  It is stress related factors......

Research shows that the average youngster in this country has been given such negative programming 148,000 times by the time he/she reaches 18, versus only 4000 or so positives during that same time frame...(positives like, "Go for it," "You can do anything you set your mind to do," and "You are as smart, handsome, gifted, athletic, etc. as the next person.")

Negative programming has kept us from taking risks, trusting our abilities, or thinking "outside of the box.  "Safety" for most of us lies in repeating old, self-defeating habits, rather than "risking" changes in our habits.  This is why approximately 77% of our self-talk is negative and why we develop fears of change, taking risks, and losing everything. We constantly worry about what others think about us, and often lose our self-confidence and self-esteem.

The good news in all of this is that no matter how unfortunate your history, no matter how much you have had negative people pounding warnings and their own fears into your brain, and no matter how many times you inadvertently  reinforced those unfortunate habits yourself through your own self-defeating, fear-producing internal dialogue...it can all be overcome and you can live a much healthier, more productive and (for the most part) worry and stress-free life!

YOUR THOUGHTS, STRESS & YOUR HEALTH

You and I are much more likely to suffer an ulcer or have irritable bowel syndrome, or high blood pressure than a gazelle on the African Plains is.  That's because the gazelle's nervous system is brilliantly adapted for handling life and death emergencies, such as a lion springing out of the brush and giving chase to it.  That nervous system switches on immediately, digestion stops, blood leaves the internal organs to gorge the large muscles of the legs to produce maximum speed and efficiency, blood pressure increases rapidly to deal with the demands for blood in the brain and external organs, sugar pours into the blood stream for quick bursts of energy, and adrenalin is released so that the gazelle is completely alert and focused on escape and ultimate survival.

If everything goes as planned (assuming the gazelle is not injured, weak or sick), it escapes, that nervous system quickly returns to a relaxed state and the gazelle goes on with the business of grazing, playing, reproducing, etc....no reason for an ulcer or stress-producing physical disorder developing here.

As humans we rarely (thankfully) are faced with someone trying to kill us.  We don't have to stalk and wrestle down our food.  We don't have to run for our lives.  But the way we interpret  everyday events...from traffic jams, to inconsiderate clients, to our teenagers' behaviors...leads to that same nervous system clicking on countless times every day!   The gazelle never has to worry about these things...we  humans invented these worries and we have allowed them to dominate our lives.

In our self-talk we use stress producing phrases, like, "What if that person is angry at me today?" or "I should have known better than..." or "I can't let her get away with that...she needs to know who is in charge here!" or "The market will never turn around and my clients will hate me."  These are thoughts that the gazelle never has, but these are the thoughts that we humans allow to go unchecked in our minds.  So for our nervous systems, each of these thoughts sets off a chain reaction very similar to that which happens in the gazelle running for its life.  Except for us, these thoughts occur hundreds of times a week and so we are constantly switching on and off this vital nervous system.

If your blood pressure rises to 180/120 when someone points a gun at you, that is being adaptive...but if it rises to 180/120 in congested traffic, at the bank where a clerk is slow, and each time you look at the stock market...you could be heading for a major health disaster!

Besides blood pressure-related cardiac problems, think about the potential physiological consequences of blood leaving the digestive tract every time you worry yourself, of sugar pouring into your bloodstream over and over because you are angry about your teen's behavior, adrenalin being released every time you try to please folks who can't be pleased...these events all have physiological consequences, from ulcers...to heart failure...to gastritis...to diabetes...to insomnia.

Internal medicine specialists and family practice physicians estimate that at least 65% of their patients actually do not have an underlying medical condition causing their symptoms!  It is stress related factors (caused by the self-talk you use every day) which causes the bulk of our medical symptoms!  And since most physicians do not have (or choose not to spend) the time to ask you about your life, how you interpret various situations, how you deal with events, etc., they simply treat your symptoms (usually with drugs), while the root cause is untouched and continues to fester.

Stay tuned for the next installment, where Dr. Singer will explain what you can do to change your thinking habits, and therefore your health and stress levels for the rest of your life!


Dr. Jack Singer is a Consulting Psychologist, Professional Speaker and Trainer for Fortune 500 companies,  associations and individual firms from Miami to Malaysia. His self-help articles appear in medical and human resources journals and he is a frequent guest on MSNBC, FOX SPORTS  and radio talk shows throughout the U.S.
  Jack can be reached at 1-800-497-9880, Email: [email protected] Web: www.funspeaker.com
                                               ExpertMagazine.com 2001

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