Yesterday, during practice 79 with a team of OSU grapplers we learned the proper definition of the word stress. Hans Selye coined the term back in 1936 (I told the grapplers it was 1952. I stand corrected.) According to him, stress is “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” In essence, since all growth requires change, we could look at our stressors as a catalyst for our growth. We could tell ourselves that stress is a challenge designed for our growth. We would not by lying to ourselves, would we?
Stress is any challenge designed for growth. Stress is good. Embrace it.
Try explaining your stressors to yourself this way, friend. Remember, the opposite of stress is boredom. Don’t try to escape stress. Find it. Go get the kind of stress that builds eustress. You will not grow without distressing yourself some of the time. A lot of us think of stress as mental stress. We get stressed when we think things are out of our control and mentally we fast forward. This is unhealthy. Catch yourself when you do this and remember NATO’s training. Use the A, B, C’s (Dr. Seligman of Learned Optimism) to quiet the mind and calm yourself down. This works. Now that your mind is right, go get yourself physically and mentally stressed doing something hard that means something to you. This is the kinda stress we want more of, I reminded this team of grapplers. We broke into teams and talked openly about our stressors. It was eye opening.
Here’s what I heard. Most grapplers, just like you and me, are stressed about bullshit out of their control and in the future. For instance, many athletes were “stressed” about the lineup. We are in the month of August, remember. The season doesn’t even start until months from now. We cannot control what coaches decide to do. Focus on today. Find a challenge in today’s practice and put yourself at risk for failing. Set a healthy and hard target for your training, I told them. Make it a stressor. Reach for it. When you fail to grab hold, set another target and reach and repeat. This is healthy stress. Thinking ahead to the lineup, to tomorrow, to next week, and feeling the tightening within, sensing the fear reaction in your body, this is anxiety. Breathe, soothe yourself, change your self talk, and ask a friend for help. This is serious and we do not want to increase anxiety. Go get more stress. Gain strength. Good.
In 299 days, Grappy, Blondie, Littlest Fricker, Downer, Brett, and I (maybe a few more too) will be turning right out of St. George’s Hotel and heading up a legendary Tour de France climb by the name of the Col de le Croix de Fir. My system is not getting anxious thinking about this future lineup of old athletes attempting to take on this fourteen mile climb and many more in the nine days of constant stressors going up. You see, thinking ahead isn’t the problem. Thinking ahead with fear, trepidation, and focusing on the difficulty is the problem. Prepare for hard things. Start acclimating your system to this reality. Do them poorly and keep working. Pretty soon what overwhelms will cause a smile. You have what it takes, friend. You can do more than you think.
You won’t get better thinking, writing, or ruminating. You get better by doing. I’m heading out for some hard climbs here in central Ohio. My mind will be miles ahead. My minds eye does not imagine trouble ahead. Instead of trouble, my focus is on imagining the beauty amidst the comradarie of suffering. My mind is focused on the love for the work and my love for the team I’ll be working with. My mind is settled, serious, soothed, and somewhat giddy with anticipation. This is good.
Monday we celebrate Labor Day. Everyday I celebrate OPUS day. In my mind, everyday is OPUS day. This is love based thinking. More of this, friend.