First a few sentences about what we have discussed so far on this topic, which may cause some discomfort for you:
Narrated by Jenny Verano, life-balanceconsulting.com
If we want to achieve more mental and emotional strength, we have to put ourselves under additional stress. This stress should always be followed by a phase of recovery. These phases should alternate in waves. Boredom can often indicate that you are under-challenged, and being depressed when overwhelmed. Anxiety can also indicate overwhelming, and joylessness can be caused by underwhelming.
What we still lack in our analysis is a clear key that determines when stress is good and when it is bad for us. It is good when we become stronger, it is bad when it weakens us. In the 7th part of the mental strength training, we said that recovery plays a major role in this.
But the stress itself also needs further differentiation. When is stress good, when is it bad? Wavy stress is good, linear stress weakens. Do you remember? But when does stress become linear? When do we need to take better care of ourselves? And if we take care of ourselves, when do we underestimate ourselves and weaken ourselves?
The short formula is: Discomfort yes, pain no.
Discomfort is ok, pain is not
To become stronger, we have to go beyond our usual limits. We have to leave our comfort zone. But not at any price and not to every extent. And certainly not in every intensity and not as linear stress, being permanently overstressed. Because if we experience too long or too much stress, we feel pain.
Pain leads to linear stress. We will find it very difficult to relax afterward. However, discomfort is not a problem at all. At least not if we know how to relax afterward. And then take a break for recovery.
Therefore, our short formula is: We need discomfort because otherwise, we won’t get stronger. We should avoid pain because otherwise, we tend to become weaker. After pain, recovery gets very difficult because the stress has become permanent.
One of the best “instructions” for dealing with stress is: If it hurts, take immediate action and relax! The earlier the better. Because pain weakens you and makes you sick.
Active And Passive
We can strengthen ourselves actively and passively. We actively strengthen ourselves by identifying our weaknesses and deliberately expanding our limits. This is how we actively work on our competitive behavior. We passively strengthen ourselves by using random – and undesirable – stressful situations of everyday life to develop ourselves further.
It is important how we perceive stress. Do we really welcome it? Or do we get desperate and cry as soon as something unexpected happens? It’s much less about the situation itself, it is just our perception of it. How we react is much more important. And our reaction has to do with our beliefs. What do you think about stress? Good or bad? Annoying or pleasant? Disturbing or a welcomed opportunity?
If we combine stress with something unpleasant, it will be more painful for us. But if we love fighting, by combining stress with something pleasant, it will only be uncomfortable. That may be hard training, but not too hard. As you can see, our inner dialogue decides whether a situation appears as painful to us or only triggers discomfort.
Our approach must become to combine discomfort with fun. Because where the fun stops, the pain is probably not far away. Discomfort can be fun. But with pain, this is almost impossible.
Utilize Pain as a Messenger
Pain is not just bad. It also serves a purpose: It lets us know that we are not strong enough at the moment. That we need more training. So more discomfort, followed by recovery phases, that we don’t feel pain too quickly anymore. We should check our beliefs and attitudes.
As you can see, we have to identify the right amount of stress for us. It should neither be too much nor too little. On the one hand, we should break through old borders. But on the other hand, we should be careful and then relax. Pain is always a signal that we have gone too far with our strategy. And it indicates that we should rest and then change something.
Relaxation Needs to be Learned
We have already said that champions differ primarily from other athletes, that they know how to recover. They use every quiet phase to relax. Weak athletes, on the other hand, often miss these opportunities. James Loehr describes four phases for a successful recovery.
Phase 1: The positive physical reaction
We have already spoken about the art of acting, and utilizing it for the facial expressions and body language of a winner. Now, all we have to do is add, that recovery will be much quicker if we have previously played the role of the winner. Let’s repeat that: Good actors recover faster!
It’s easy to explain emotionally: If we play the role of a cool winner, then we already have positive emotions. So we can recover emotionally very quickly. Because to relax means to feel good! Mentally it is also easy to understand: We are already thinking positively. We bring our thought into a convenient and relaxed state. Therefore, we feel much less exhaustion. The physical recovery aspect is still missing: If you think positively and feel good, even your physical recovery is faster.
Let’s keep something important in mind: Bad actors take a lot longer to recover. Their stress cycle is much more linear. For example, within the designated breaks of a tennis match, they cannot reduce stress at all.
Good actors, on the other hand, can do this within a few seconds. They also manage a wave-like alternation between stress and relaxation within the competition.
We have to learn to create these waves and cleverly utilizing them, even when we are under pressure. The easiest way to get there is to be a good actor. Now you see another reason, why the best athletes are those who are skilled actors. Because good actors can also recover the fastest, even within a competition.
For those who can act well, 3 to 5 seconds are sufficient to send encouraging messages to their real selves, such as:
- Everything is under control.
- No reason to panic.
- No need to freak out.
- Stay relaxed, You can do it.
These positive messages pave the way until the next phase of recovery.
Phase 2: Relaxation
A physical relaxation reaction starts within about twenty seconds. Our pulse rate is falling. Our blood pressure drops. Our muscle tension decreases. Brain activity subsides. Breathing calms down. You can measure all of that. However, the prerequisite is that we feel good and have positive thoughts. We can produce both through acting.
Phase 3: The preparation
It may sound astonishing: Those who are prepared well can recover faster. Usually, after most exertion, recovery takes place. In fact, those who have practiced and prepared for it can recover better. For example, if you meditate in the morning, you can recover faster during the day after a stressful phase. And with that, we are already in the fourth phase.
Phase 4: Routines
We need certain routines for relaxation. If you take every day a walk in the forest and look forward to it, stressful events will be much less challenging. Linear stress hardly arises because you know: “Soon I will go to the forest.” The same applies to meditation, endurance sports, yoga, breathing exercises, listening to music, dancing, and meeting friends, etc.
We have to plan both preparation and rituals. By chance, not much will happen. I can only repeat, what I’ve learned from top athletes: If you have a training plan, you also need to have a recovery plan.
For us, who are in business, this means that if we have a work plan, we also need a complementary relaxation plan. And ideally, this plan should always include these four phases:
The recovery begins with a positive reaction to stress (phase 1). The optimal reaction is to act well as a winner. We just pretend that we are the one who responds optimally. We’re just playing the reaction we’d like to show. And with that, we show it. In phase 2 we allow a relaxation reaction for twenty seconds. In phases 3 and 4 we practice and train relaxation: Through preparation and routines. Perhaps you might say: these two phases should be at the beginning. Right. But after the competition, the preparation for the next competition starts immediately. So whenever we recover and really relax, we also train to recover at the same time.
Patterns of Recreation
There are many good books, guides, and seminars on optimal relaxation. Here is a list of a few things that you are probably familiar with:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat well. Don’t eat too much. Especially not in the evening.
- Drink enough. And by that I mean water!
- Avoid short-chain carbohydrates like sugar and white flour. Both are like doping: We feel better for a short time. However, this feeling quickly disappears, and we have to dope again, so we eat garbage again, over and over again.
- Avoid red meat. A steak with chips is in the stomach for eight hours.
- Enjoy a sunset.
- Listen to good music.
- Laugh a lot.
- Get a massage.
- Read (for fun, not for training).
- Relax through conscious breathing.
- Take a nap.
- Enjoy sex.
- Go to the sauna.
- Do some relaxing sports.
- Keep practicing to recover during the day.
- Practice being a good actor. Be aware that the moment you act well, you immediately start your recovery phase!
But be careful and live at a pace that allows awareness. Always be aware of the importance of relaxation: Stress is the stimulus for growth. But the recovery is the time in which the growth takes place.
The real me wants your attention!
Relaxation also means that we allow ourselves to slide back into our real behavior. There is no time for this during the competition or in difficult situations. Our real self is almost blocked. But as soon as there is no longer any pressure to perform, the needs of the real self should get your attention and shall get satisfied again. These include the recreational practices we discussed above. But that also includes simply having fun. To do things that you really enjoy. To enjoy your freedom.
It would be ideal, of course, if the waves between stress and relaxation get smaller. Because we have learned to recognize opportunities for relaxation everywhere even in stressful phases.
True masters and winners are usually only carried by relatively small waves. They experience fun from the discomfort, they do not even consider it as stress. And they see opportunities to relax everywhere. They also know themselves very well. They recognize when stress makes them stronger and when it weakens them. You counteract pain very quickly – and recover.
They have also trained to master recovery phases in a masterly manner. They have integrated these into their daily routine and in their annual schedule. They do not see these time-outs as a waste of time, but as the times when they meet their real self needs. In which they actively relax and become stronger.
The goal is to enjoy both: Stress as well as relaxation. Those who align their values and beliefs accordingly, and train themselves, are equally appreciating both. They love discomfort and relaxation. They love fighting and to calm down. They need both to meet their needs. If one of them would be dominant in his life, he would be missing something.
Without relaxation, there is only stress. The stress grows linearly and becomes constant and relentless. Relaxation is the foundation of our performance.
Intensive stress requires intensive relaxation. A successful working life requires planning. A successful recovery too. The formula should be: Work intensely and recover deeply. Practice both.
If we feel uncomfortable when stressed, it makes us stronger; If we feel pain, stress becomes linear and weakens us. Therefore, we should learn to love the discomfort and to prevent the pain immediately. But in the long term, we gain the ability to interpret discomfort as stimuli that are helpful for us. In this way, we feel less and less pain.￼
Your Thinking Time For Week 8
About your discomfort relaxation balance:
Do your thinking time in a mind storming manner. That means you write a list of ideas for each question. For 1 week, think every day about the following questions and find for each of them at least one new answer or a new example per day. Write the answers down in your gratitude journal.
- Schedule appointments with yourself to review all eight letters about mental strength. Write down your key findings if you haven’t already done so. Otherwise, read your notes again. Here you find the complete list off all parts of the training. The password is:
- Determine why this topic is so important to you. For your quality of life, but also for your entrepreneurial success.
- Distinguish between discomfort and pain.
- Make a 4-phase plan for optimal relaxation.
- Rethink the importance of acting – focus on your ability to relax.
- When did you manage to recover well? These are important successes.
- Record five things you are grateful for.
On the 7th day analyze your discomfort-relaxation balance:
- What did serve you the best for relaxation?
- What part of it did create more discomfort?
- How can you optimize your discomfort-relaxation balance?
- How can you utilize this optimized discomfort-relaxation balance systematically?
- What action will you take, to ensure to remain your discomfort in balance?
Vital and happy regards