Freaking out over minor, stressful events is wrecking our health. That’s the upshot of a new book from mind-body expert Dr. Marc Shoen. He says the things that trigger our stress have evolved. Our ancestors had a reason to be stressed. They had to struggle to find food and a safe place to sleep - plus protect their family from wild animals and natural disasters. But if they managed to do that, they felt comfortable. And were able to relax until the next poisonous snake dropped out of a tree – when their stress levels would shoot up again.
But our modern-day life is so comfortable, that we rarely face life-threatening situations. So, our brains have started treating things that are even slightly stressful, or uncomfortable, as if they’re life-or-death dangers. Which means, being late for a flight, or giving a speech in front of a crowd, can push us into high-stress mode. Dr. Schoen even has a name for it: The “Cozy Paradox.” And he says unnecessary stress and fear leads to poor work performance, insomnia, overeating, road rage, and relationship troubles.
What’s the fix? Dr. Schoen says, to reduce our stress, we need to become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations. For example:
- Expand your comfort zone. For example, drive to an unfamiliar location without GPS or a map.
- Take a tech timeout. When you’re with family or friends, shut off your phone, and don’t answer texts or emails. Even if the thought of missing messages makes you fidgety.
- Delay gratification. Want an example? Stay hungry for a while before you eat. And if you always grab a beer the moment you get home, put it off ‘til tomorrow.
If you’d like to go further, the book is: Your Survival Instinct is Killing You.