In an age where speed and greed are rampant, it appears many of us today are trading our short-term wealth for our long-term health. Our frantic 21st Century life-style of moving “faster, faster, faster” does not improve health or performance when chronic stress is the fuel for productivity. In fact, an estimated one million Americans are absent from work daily due to stress-related disorders. Heart disease, hypertension, insomnia, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression are the most common disorders linked to stress. In addition, addictions often result from “self-medicating” or numbing in an attempt to cope with seemingly unmanageable stress.
Some burnout sufferers even feel they’ve lost their heart connection to life. Clearly, our current model for living is increasing stress and burnout to epidemic proportions— to the detriment of individuals, companies and society as a whole. So how can we escape this treadmill that’s frantically leading us to illness and emotional bankruptcy? Stress reduction may be your initial response to this challenging question— and if you can release some stressors in your life, that’s good. But stress reduction is not the aim of this guidebook.
The reason is this: the word “reduction” suggests that the circumstances and events that cause stress can actually be reduced. Unfortunately, contemporary life as we know it will remain full of stressors. Traffic jams, uncooperative coworkers, and family conflicts—plus cell phones, pagers, fax machines, e-mail, and high-speed computers—all make it likely that our lives will continue to be filled with one stressor after another.
Therefore, since few of us are willing to move to a remote mountain top to achieve stress reduction, we may find ourselves asking if a balanced, productive, heartfelt life in this society is beyond hope. Absolutely not! In this series of articles, one of my goals is to help you develop stress resilience.
There are three sets of powerful tools: Measuring Tools, Monitoring Tools, and Modifying Tools. The Measuring Tools show you how to assess your relationships, energy levels, anxiety, anger, and depression. The Monitoring Tools allow you to improve your mind-body communications and help you effectively relate to others. This leads to better “internal and external intimacy.” Finally, the Modifying Tools focus on behavior modification. They allow you to change the speed and direction of your emotions and physiological reactivity so you can regulate yourself. Methods for uprooting anger and accessing pent-up emotions to boost your immune power as well as improve relationships are only a few of the valuable Modifying Tools you’ll learn.
To learn to live a three-dimensional life that includes matter–motion–emotion. This means that we practice mindfulness toward our bodies (matter), are aware of our choices of action (motion), and have access to our feelings (emotion). This “New Model” is the opposite path from the common speed-and-greed lifestyle. So the good news is, a three-dimensional life is a way off the stress and burnout treadmill that leads to illness and emotional bankruptcy.
Finally, when you commit to getting off the stress and burnout treadmill, you’re choosing to live a healthier life. You stop living by the tick of the clock and the “to-do” list. When you slow down and begin paying attention to your experience in the moment, you transform yourself from a human doing into a human being. In essence, you come home to your own heart. Then, you expand this love outward to create a life that includes the precious gift of human connectedness. This transforms isolation into altruism, so you can lovingly live… “with your heart in mind.”