By Guest Blogger Judy Belmont
Stress just seems to keep on increasing in modern life. And there is evidence for that! According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, at least one third of Americans report that they are living with extreme stress, and about half of Americans think life keeps on getting more stressful. Despite modern conveniences and the technological advances we enjoy, stress just keeps on looming larger in our lives. Money and work are cited as the top leading causes of stress, which is not surprising in our uncertain and challenging economy.
So wow do we thrive in the face of our life stresses and not just survive them?
We need to develop the right mindset regarding stress. Most of our stress does not come from outside of ourselves, but rather it is our interpretation and our take on things that determines our stress. So if you think that traffic stresses you out, or your co-worker drives you crazy, THINK AGAIN. Traffic or your co-worker only have the power because you give them the power. It is impossible for them to directly “stress you out” and change the neurons in your head, as it is really your attitude towards them that causes your stress.
With that in mind, most of our stress originates between our ears, and the good news is we have more power to control our stress than we realize!
Sometimes it helps to use analogies to better appreciate life’s dilemmas, and what is a better analogy to our lives than Swiss Cheese, with all its holes? Like the Swiss, our lives have inevitable holes and imperfections, but it is these challenges that enrich our lives and gives us character and depth.
We can develop a handle on our stresses by learning six life lessons that the Swiss can teach us:
1. Swiss Cheese has holes, and so does our lives: Without the holes, there would be no Swiss as we know it, and without the stresses, disappointments and setbacks, our lives would not be uniquely ours. Interestingly enough, it is a fact that the bigger the holes of the Swiss, the sweeter and more distinctive the cheese. What an analogy to our lives! We develop resiliency by overcoming challenges and obstacles. By moving through life’s holes rather than getting stuck in them, we become stronger. It might be nice is life was more smooth and predictable like Cream Cheese or American, but life is not like that!
2. The holes in the cheese are called eyes: The fact that the holes of the cheese are called eyes makes for a great analogy to our understanding of stress. It is the holes in our lives that allow us to see more clearly and develop insight. If we did not have the holes in our lives, we would not have the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves as we emerge through life’s stresses and obstacles. Would you really want to be like the cheese with no eyes? I would think not, especially in light of the fact that Swiss Cheese with no eyes (or holes) is called “Blind Swiss“ otherwise known as ”cheese in denial!”
3. We accept the Swiss as it is: We do not judge that the Swiss has too many holes or not enough, and we accept the Swiss just as it is. Likewise, if we accept life as having inevitable holes, then we will not judge it or wish it away. We will embrace what happens with the confidence that we can handle what comes our way.
4. There is a positive side to the holes: The holes in the cheese make the cheese lighter, less caloric, and more distinctive. The holes are not and neither are the stresses in our lives. Much of our stress is actually positive and we keep on wanting more! Our body might not know that the stress we are feeling is positive, and we might still get the butterflies, but the positive side of stress cannot be denied. Just think of getting married, going on vacation, having a baby, playing in or watching the “big game.” Would we want to give up those life stresses? As Stress pioneer Hans Selye said, “Stress is the spice of life!”
5. Fondue can never turn back into a block of cheese: Once the Cheese melts into fondue, it can never go back to be in a cheese wheel. What is done is done. However, so much stress is caused by ruminations and “woulda coulda shouldas” which cannot be changed, causing undue stress on countless people. Give up the habit of looking back with regret. When you focus too much on the past and what can’t be changed, you get stuck in a hole! There are no do-overs in life, but if you learn lessons from the past you can build on your regrets and have a second chance!
6. There is no such thing as a perfect slice of cheese: No two slices of cheese are alike, and you too are unique. Striving for perfection brings on undue negative stress, and brings about low self esteem and is a set up for a personal sense of failure. Accept yourself as you do the cheese with all its ”holes,” and build on your failures and setbacks instead of being defined by them. Strive for goodness, not perfection.
Hopefully, with the Swiss Cheese Theory of Life mindset, you will trade the taste of stress for success, and will not only survive but thrive through life’s holes.
So what are you waiting for? Get off the fence, smile and say CHEESE!
Judy Belmont, M.S. is a psychotherapist and mental health/wellness speaker who has spoken before thousands of people nationally on topics of self-improvement and mental health. Her recently released self-help book with co-author Lora Shor, MSW is titled, The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life! How To Get Through The Holes In Your Life Without Getting Stuck In Them!
Visit the Swiss Cheese website to download the first two chapters at www.TheSwissCheeseTheoryOfLife.com
Ladies, how do YOU cope with stress? Please share your tips!