What kinds of stress are there?
Can stress be good for us?
What happens inside us when stress assails us?
Are there simpler remedies for stress that we imagine?
How can we minimise stress every day (and increase effectiveness)?
What benefits are there to stressing less and living more?
This easy to read book provides a raft of answers to one of life’s biggest challenges.
One of David’s great quotes for me as an adventurer committed to inspiring men and women to leave the couch, throw adrift the mooring lines and sail into their dream and adventure-filled life is “living long is no substitute for living well.”
Stress Less Live More is a must-read, and equips the reader with essential tools for the modern day stress and anxiety-provoking lifestyles we lead.
– Dr Geoff Wilson, Veterinary Surgeon, Entrepreneur, Adventurer, Four Time World Record Holder, Founder of 5th Element Expeditions”
What I love about David Schaeffer is that he doesn’t just have a good grasp on this subject, he also role models his advice to us. This book is authentic, honest, practical and inspiring. It is a must for all of us who desire to live our life at a pace that is sustainable for the long term.
– Ross Abraham, Oceania Chairman, I.N.C.
This book delivered not only an understanding of the biological condition of stress but also real, practical and everyday methodologies of managing it. Importantly, this book also goes beyond the consideration of everyday stress and through its in depth referencing of one of the world’s worst ever sea disasters, explores the extremes of stress that lead to a need for an acceptance of a “new normal”.
– Tim Spencer, Executive General Manager, Mulpha Norwest Pty. Ltd
Life without stress would be a very boring affair indeed. Most of us are nervously excited when confronted with an adventure that has a scary side to it.
I can remember once as a young boy overlooking Yamba Beach where a surf carnival was in progress. Yamba is the southern most surf club on the Far North Coast of New South Wales and the boat races were on in a big and dangerous sea. Yamba Beach is small and hedged in by a headland on one side and Craigmore Rocks on the other. I watched in horror as boats returning to the beach careered into each other and into Craigmore Rocks in their attempt to reach the finishing line in one piece. There were bodies in the water and pieces of surfboat and oars being washed around in the churn. No lives were lost that day, but I can remember saying to myself, “I will never row a surfboat!”
It was tradition in our family to become surf club members. After achieving my bronze medallion years later I discovered I was too slow to swim or run competitively, and the only other avenue left was, you guessed it, rowing surfboats. The tingle of excitement we all feel when challenged to put ourselves in the way of harm, completed laps around my teenage body. Some irresistible power drew me to challenge my fears. What is it that tempts us to tempt fate? Is it to flirt with danger? Is it to step (sometimes wildly) beyond our comfort zone? What is it that attracts us to risky things and compels us to leave the place of safety?
When considering good stress, Hans Selye (1907-1982), the father of research into the impact stress has on the human body, coined the term ‘eustress’. He defined it as ‘stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of fulfilment or other positive feelings’. We are indebted to the brilliance and faith of this man. Since 1936, when he produced his General Adaptation Syndrome, he and subsequent researchers have been providing a progressive understanding of the human endocrine system.
Research by Daniela Kaufer and UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby has uncovered exactly how acute stress (short-lived, not chronic) primes the brain for improved performance.
Some amounts of stress are good to push you to the level of optimal alertness, behavioural and cognitive performance.
– Daniela Kaufer.
A short time after signing up for the junior boat crew we were competing in a big south-easterly swell rolling around Cabarita Headland. ‘Boaties’ up and down the coast get a special expression on their face when prevailing weather conditions promise a big sea at this smallish coastal village. The bigger waves were breaking some two hundred meters beyond the turning buoys and after we managed to turn first, a monster picked us up and drove us towards the beach. Those moments powering down the face of a wave longer than the surfboat were going to improve anyone’s prayer life. The wave was judged to be about five metres high by those on the beach and crowds ran to the waterline to shake the hands and pat the backs of the dazed crew and sweep.
Multiple books have been dedicated to Abraham Lincoln’s humour in and out of the office. This story of Lincoln took place during the Civil War. In 1862 he called together a special session of his war cabinet members to discuss a matter of incredible importance. Every tight-lipped, serious-faced member of the cabinet was there – the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, and more.
“Gentlemen, why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.” Lincoln had discovered that laughter helped him remain composed under constant and intense pressure. He would not have known that laughter leads to the release of endorphins, a self-manufactured natural opiate (‘end’ from the word ‘endogenous’, which means ‘originating from within’, and ‘orphin’ from the word ‘morphine’) and that the principal function of endorphins is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals, boost optimism, self-confidence and self worth.
One of Lincoln’s favourite stories was as follows:
A courier appeared at the War Office to announce a major Union victory. The officers were surprised when I showed no excitement. I dismissed the courier and told the men in the room, pay no attention to him… he’s the biggest liar in Washington. He reminds me of an old fisherman I used to know who got such a reputation for stretching the truth that he bought a pair of scales and insisted on weighing every fish in the presence of witnesses. One day a baby was born next door and the doctor borrowed the fisherman’s scales. The baby weighed forty-seven pounds.
Every time we laugh heartily for extended periods we diminish the secretion of cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline), while enhancing immune reactivity by producing a cocktail of healthy hormones. This cocktail includes NK (Natural Killer) cells, endorphins, serotonin, growth hormone (an enhancer of key immune responses), IFN (interferon-gamma, which is extremely helpful in combatting viral infections) and a host of other beneficial substances produced naturally.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever been through such a stressful experience,” David McDonald told me as he reflected on the financial pressure he had experienced over the previous year. “I must have been under pretty fair pressure. My hair began falling out.”
Possibly David’s greatest strength as a leader was in the area of self-leadership. For me, he was the master. He would gather his volunteer team together at 6am every Tuesday morning to inspire and mentor them. During that year, no one would have known how much pressure he was carrying. He would turn up outwardly strong and happy each Tuesday morning ready to lead. I studied this man’s intuitive leadership for three years and it occurred to me that over half the mentoring sessions he conducted were to do with building inner strength.
When we are emotionally drained we are far less capable of combatting stress. Some people keep their composure, their ‘nerve’, under stress while others cave in.
We are often kinder to our mobile phones and cars than we are to our mind and emotions. When they look like they’re approaching empty, at least we recharge or refuel them. Here are some keys to re-charging our batteries:
Often when we are drained emotionally our automatic reaction is to find an escape and do nothing. Now, doing nothing is a good idea if we are physically drained, but an empty soul needs re-filling. Sometimes we head off to the movies and watch anything. If that ‘anything’ is contrary to quality values we can find ourselves going into the movie theatre drained, then coming out drained and stained.
We have three tanks that all require replenishment. Our body needs to be replenished by healthy food and exercise. Our mind needs quality mind-food, and our spirit drains energy equally quickly. It is a different equation for each individual to choose how to do this well.
The quickest way to top up our joy is to get it from someone else. Extrinsic re-fuelling is much speedier than intrinsic. Locate someone who will laugh with you and help you look on the brighter side of life; someone who will help you see the big picture and put today’s circumstances into perspective. You need to step aside from all that is absorbing you.
“We bleed energy every day,” David would emphasise regularly. “At the end of every day, if you have lived it well your tank will be empty. Making decisions; driving to another place through traffic; training others; resolving conflict; casting vision – it all takes our energy.”
Amazingly, David would put his earphones in when he went to bed and play the Bible for spiritual replenishment as he slept. Rather than sleep and let the underground streams of his mind worry about his continual supply of challenges, he decided he would feed rather than bleed his soul.
In its simplest form multitasking is switching from task to task in quick succession, or endeavouring to complete various tasks simultaneously. But the worst kind of multitasking is context or task switching.
Context switching has been described as the evil sibling of multitasking. This is where we switch from one unrelated task to another, generally before the first task has been completed.
The consequences of multitasking can vary in the extreme. Throwing in a load of laundry while talking to a friend will probably work out all right. However, losing just a half second of time to task switch can make a life-or-death difference for a driver talking on a mobile phone while traveling at 80 km/h.
Psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking. Psychologists tend to liken the job to choreography or air-traffic control, noting that in these operations, as in others, mental overload can result in catastrophe.
Look at the traps we have fallen into by multitasking. Some studies made on those engaged in information employment suggest:
What to do?
Group similar categories, tasks and projects in your weekly schedule.
Schedule similar tasks and projects on the same day or days of the week. Let’s say some of your regular tasks include scheduling social media posts and answering social media users online. Group those tasks together since they all involve social media. Research shows that ‘batching’ like-minded tasks makes us able to tackle and finish more initiatives.
The net result of scheduling similar tasks one day per week is having long, uninterrupted productive blocks of time during the other days of the week.
- Mattan Griffel, CEO, One Month.
We shouldn’t use our email inbox as a task list (Harvard Business Review). Twice a day, schedule 15 minutes of ‘email triage’ time. Go through your inbox and prioritise them in their categories, tasks and projects.
Silence any phone and desktop notifications if possible.
Because it takes time to return to full focus and maximum productivity after an interruption, create a deliberate, refreshing pause to assist you to switch off from the previous task. Do something that puts the mind at play.