If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Managing Stress

TAGS: increased fat, cortisol levels, harry selkow, stress, performance

Question:

Coach, do you have any tips for managing stress? I'm less than six months into my first apartment with my girlfriend. Naturally, we fight a bit more due to the fact that we're always with each other. Also, money has never really been an issue for me, but it is now. I'm stressed out, coach, and it's affecting my body fat and performance in the gym. I train 5/3/1, I condition four times a week, and my diet is on point. What can I do to get rid of some of this stress?

Answer:

I’ve given your question a lot of thought. I surely wouldn’t want to lead you down the wrong path and I really wanted to think about my response. While increased stress will also increase cortisol levels, thus increasing “belly fat” storage, the issue at hand is really about your reaction to what you’re feeling as increased stress. Remember, it isn’t what happens to you but how you react that is at the core of this.

Your “tone” is one that sounds like you’re blaming your girlfriend (whether true or not, it’s just my perception). Obviously, it’s a new experience for you (and her as well). It’s your “scrimmage,” if you will, before participating in the “big game,” if it’s your intention to take your relationship to another level. You’re finding out things that you weren’t aware of when you lived separately. So is she. She now knows that your poop stinks, you leave the seat up, and you don’t like leaving dishes in the sink. Whatever! It’s new for both of you.

As for the money, you’re now in a co-existing lifestyle. Unfortunately (correct me if I’m way off base), you feel as if you’re paying for everything—rent, groceries, etc. Basically, what the two of you didn’t do was set limits or parameters by which you will continue in this relationship. Don’t feel bad—most people don’t!

You need to spell this out to each other, what you expect from one another and when. Don’t hide your feelings. It isn’t your responsibility to pay for everything. She works and would have to pay for some things if she wasn’t living with you. You need to know what pisses her off about you! No one is perfect, and we may not change some of our lousy habits, but it’s good to know which ones really flake the other person out.

I was in a relationship in which I didn’t have that “talk.” As soon as we said “I do!” she didn’t (anymore). I got more angry by the day. I was at a point where swallowing the nine was almost a good idea. We divorced, and I was a member of the “He man women haters club” for a long time.

I met my current wife, April, and things were different. We talked first. We laid our expectations of each other out and discussed what we would and would not do. We compromised on the non-important things.

We live within our means and that was a conversation in a shopping mall when I asked her, “Is that really necessary?” I’ve been so broke that I couldn't even pay attention. I’ve slept in places that would make a person cringe. But I did what I had to do to get out from under a circumstance. Never live under the circumstances. Do this now!

Shut off the computer and have an “expectation talk” with your girlfriend. Set up the parameters. If you can’t live with those limits, cut and run. End it! You (and she) will be better for it. If you can live with the limits, then you’ll reduce the “stress” and you’ll make your relationship as strong as you would like it to be.

Now, tell me this—who wouldn't want to be strong(er) in every aspect of life?

Question:

Thank you so much for that response. It really helped. We had that talk...everything went just fine. I definitely want to take it to the next level with her. She really is an amazing girlfriend. It's funny. When I was typing the original question, I wasn’t blaming her for anything, but I guess subconsciously I was. Thanks for opening my eyes to that. I think we will be just fine, and I already feel better. Thanks for everything, coach!

Answer:

Jeff, Awesome! I’m glad it helped. April and I are pals first. We talk so that no one has to “guess.” Keep making deposits into both of your emotional bank accounts.

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