Stop Stressing Without losing Momentum



By Dr. Randal Dick
OneAccord Nonprofit Principal

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Life itself, the way we live, has emerged as today’s principal cause of stress-induced illness. And 95 percent of all our stress originates with other people.

This makes it very difficult, yet extremely important to learn to pinpoint the sources of stress. Only then can we be alert to particular stressors in life and acquire the freedom to choose whether or not it is in our best interest to be adrenalized.

Stress Is Sneaky

The problem is that stress is elusive and slippery. Those who are most stressed are also the ones least likely to be aware of and own their stress. It isn’t until they suffer severe pain or discomfort from their over-stress that they begin to take notice. Even then, the tendency is to deny it and try to remove the consequences by taking painkillers or antacids. 

I worked with a guy like that. He got a lot done, moved mountains. He also instructed the admins to keep a super-sized bottle of Maalox in the cabinet. He would eat a handful of Maalox at a time. He died way too young and I don’t know if it ever dawned on him that there might have been a connection between his health and his stress-soaked lifestyle.

I was looking for things high on the stress list —  death of a loved one, losing a job, moving — but I found instead my internal self-talk and failure to take steps to recovery were killing me.

While wrestling with my own stress-induced symptoms I was fortunate to make a new friend, Archibald Hart. I listened to several of Dr. Hart’s lectures and read his book, "Adrenaline and Stress: The Exciting New Breakthrough That Helps You Overcome Stress." I saw many of the same things in me that Arch discovered in his own relationship with stress. I decided to use the same biofeedback tool to try to understand my stress.

BioDots perform like the old mood ring, measuring small changes in skin temperature, which is one of the best ways to detect the presence of adrenaline at large in the system. I placed the tiny dot in the V between my thumb and index finger. The Biodot colors range from an ugly muddy tan, indicating high stress, to a deep midnight blue, indicating no rousing of adrenaline. All I had to do was to wear the dot and be aware of its color. 

Work at that time had many challenges, and meetings could be very tense. I remember being in a particularly intense meeting and thinking, "I bet this dot is totally mud color." I glanced down. To my surprise, the dot glowed emerald green, which is the color that denotes alertness and engagement but not damaging stress. This happened several times and I was beginning to think I didn’t really have a problem with adrenaline addiction after all.

A few days later, I remember it was a gorgeous morning, I was feeling at peace with the world, working but in a kicked back kind of way. Mid-morning, as I walked the hundred or so feet down the corridor to the restroom, I glanced down at my dot. It was that ugly muddy brown! How could it be gorgeous green in the heat of battle and today, with no stressful stimulants, I’m awash in adrenaline? 

I tuned into my thoughts and there it was — my mind was going at high speed. "When I get back to my desk I need to call so-and-so, got to remember to get this document processed by the end of today, don’t forget the budget draft is due next week … " Then I recalled Dr. Hart saying that if he were limited to one indicator to diagnose adrenaline addiction, it would be the chronic sense of time pressure in a person. My brain was doing me a “favor,” quietly, in the background while I walked to the restroom. The brain probably sensed that I was relaxed to the point I might soon begin to experience the aches, pains and mental-emotional symptoms of adrenal exhaustion, and being the good brain that it is, activated my alarm-response to get me the much-appreciated shot of adrenaline so I would continue to feel good … and my conscious self was oblivious.

I was looking for things high on the stress list — death of a loved one, losing a job, moving — but I found instead my internal self-talk and failure to take steps to recovery were killing me.

How to Turn the Tide and Fend Off Stress

So the final question is, can you so control your secretion of adrenaline that, rather than it being the source of disease, you form an alliance with it? Absolutely yes. By following a few simple procedures, adrenaline and all its important uses can be your servant rather than your master. All it takes is a little perseverance and some understanding of how and when you wake up your adrenaline. If you know when your adrenaline is roused, you can exercise your power of choice. You can choose whether or not you need the extra, and then, if you don’t need it, you may set about lowering it.

A word of encouragement: It is never too late to start controlling the overuse of your body’s defense system. Even if you are an adrenaline addict you can prevent further damage and promote healing — even reverse some of the damage — by learning to manage the behavior that created the problem in the first place.

Be tough or tender; just convince yourself that you must get your adrenaline down. The primary and most successful method for adrenaline reduction is conscious physical relaxation. When you relax the body, the mind can’t keep itself in a state of emergency. A relaxed body begins to relax the mind.

  • Make a list of times and situations in your life where adrenaline is needed and helpful. Support your body’s recruitment of adrenaline at those times, learn to intervene with recruitment at other times.
  • Become aware of when you are adrenalized. Learn to discern and either give permission or intervene. Some easy-to-recognize symptoms are an elevated heart rate or pounding heart, slight tremble in the fingers and hands that are cooler than your face (when it's not cold).
  • There are numerous effective approaches to relaxing, such as yoga or meditation, but the most valuable are the ones you can do in any situation. These typically will involve relaxing the body and intentional breathing. 
  • Deal with the biggest enemies of peace and relaxation: unresolved anger and unfocused fear. Anger takes a terrible toll on the angry person.
  • Plan recovery times both large scale, like vacations, and small scale, like a short nap or a 15-minute break with earbuds and binaural relaxation — or maybe some relaxing AC/DC, whatever works. These short little interventions, or resets if you will, pay off better than any roulette wheel in Vegas.
  • Learn to sleep well.

There is so much valuable help available from real professionals that I am just naming some types of effective recovery tools as possible starting places.

I’m a realist. I know the majority who glanced at part one have not made it to part three. If you have, thank you. What I’m doing is honoring Dr. Archibald Hart, both the man and his work, and paying forward the life-changing insight and encouragement he gave me. 


OneAccord Nonprofit Services


About the Author

Dr. Randal Dick

Randal is a results-driven, development and execution-oriented leader with more than 25 years of experience leading high performance teams. He’s a proven business professional, capable of leading change in both the boardroom and on the frontline, with a strong track record leading strategy development, entrepreneurship, performance and evaluation globally across a variety of social enterprises and functions.

Learn more about Randal: 

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Published: 09/11/2018

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