My friend Mary was a top performing lawyer. For many years she took on high profile cases without question. Eventually, she was picked for a big promotion. Like many of her colleagues, Mary suffered from stress, and she did so in silence. Unfortunately, Mary didn’t have the tools to deal with stress, so it took her down.
I decided to share her experience with the hope that it will help fellow stress sufferers. You see, Mary was three feet from gold before she was forced to quit, due to the negative impact of stress.
Stress is a threat to success
Mary understood that undergoing prolonged stress can be bad for her overall health, but she didn’t know that it can have a negative impact on her brain.
Like Mary, many people don’t take stress management seriously.
Even after experiencing difficulties with her memory and her ability to reason, Mary didn’t make the stress connection.
Studies show that prolonged stress can cause damage to brain cells – the parts we use to communicate.
As a lawyer, Mary needed to be a top-notch communicator. In the early days, Mary responded well to normal stress; it caused her to perform at optimal levels.
However, being pumped up all the time was too much stress. And it was never addressed. Mary’s usual response to pressure was to grab another cup of coffee and get less sleep.
Not surprisingly, all that stress had severe psychological and physiological repercussions on her health. Mary became a stutterer.
She couldn’t complete a sentence without spasmodic repetition.
After undergoing medical and psychological tests, Mary learned that the cause of her condition was stress.
She started the healing process by spending six months abroad being pampered at various retreats; Mary rediscovered her communication skills. But when she returned, she no longer wanted to deal with that kind of pressure. So she moved on.
Learn how to deal with stress
Mary wanted to return to her career but knew she couldn’t avoid job-related stress, mainly if she wanted to be successful.
So, she decided to learn how to deal with stress by following the examples of those who are already successful.
How successful people deal with stress
As if by magic, Mary stumbled upon Tim Ferriss, author and entrepreneur, and self-proclaimed human guinea pig. In his book, Tools of Titans, Ferris has provided words of wisdom from high-achievers he has interviewed over the years. Among the nuggets revealed was a consistent pattern of strategies when it comes to managing stress.
According to Ferris, more than 80% of the world-class performers interviewed have some form of regular meditation or mindfulness. He referred to this as “cultivating a present-state of awareness that helps you to be nonreactive.”
Mary always struggled with routines… developing them and sticking with them was difficult. But there was no denying it, and she needed to establish daily rituals of mindfulness because it is the most consistent patterns of them all for world-class performers.
A habit that improves everything else
Mary wanted better results with less stress and the best way to achieve this is by rewiring the mind with meditation. According to Tim Ferris, “Meditation is like a warm bath for the mind.”
Mary didn’t want to complicate things by over-analyzing, so she used an app called Headspace. She tried their free Take 10. It guided her first steps of mediation for 10 minutes a day for ten days. She liked the narration. Now, depending on the circumstances, she also uses Calm for soothing sounds of nature.
Each morning, at 5.00 a.m., Mary sits on her couch and meditates for 20 minutes. It recharges her drive and makes getting up early more bearable.
Even better, she can channel her newfound mindfulness throughout the day when she tends to be distracted by racing thoughts and unfounded fears.
Many meditation options
There are many mediations options, such as Transcendental Meditation, vipassana, guided meditation, and mantra-based meditation, to name of few. The are many ways to learn, such as online courses, retreats, formal and informal classes, apps, music, youtube videos, religious organizations and many more.
Results from meditation
There appears to debate as to when the shift occurs, some say there is the minimum effect after seven days, others say it could take up to 6 months. The Dalai Lama once opined that it took only 50 hours of dedicated meditation to change your life, which isn’t much.
Mary states she started noticing life-changing effects in about six weeks.
She advises that it is easy to get frustrated. At first, her mind was all over the place; she felt like she was doing it all wrong. It is best not to start with high standards, ease your way up to 20 minutes.
The goal is not to quiet the mind; the goal is to observe your thoughts.
Ability to deal with stress is the missing link
Mary has learned that successful people undergo pressure just like everyone else, maybe even more. However, they acquired skills to overcome it.
One of the most effective tools they use to deal with stress is meditation. However, there are many ways to deal with stress… many other tools in the toolbox.