There is an old story that was once propounded by Steven Covey in his seminal work, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
On the table before you are several sized rocks. Rocks the size of walnuts, driveway gravel, pea gravel, aquarium rock, and sand. There is also a quart sized Mason jar. Try to get the jar as full as possible with as many rocks as you can.
If you start with the sand, the jar will be filled; but no other rocks may be added to the jar. The same is likely with the other smaller sized rocks. But if you put the larger rocks into the jar first, you will notice gaps between the rocks. You can then add some gravel and shake the jar until the gravel fills the spaces between the rocks. Keep filling and shaking until you begin shaking the sand into the jar. The sand will fill every gap and space available in the jar. The jar will then be filled, and most of your stones will be gone. But wait, there’s more. Now you can slowly add water to the jar, which will seep through every possible tiny space left in the jar.
Now the jar is filled.
Much of our stress originates from having more to do than the time allotted to do it. There are more tasks than apparent ability to accomplish them. We often wish we could make duplicates of ourselves like in the movie “Multiplicity.”
When we appear to be overloaded with so many people to please, so many demands, so many tasks to complete or places to be at once, we react with a stress response.
The brain feels threatened, it tells the hippocampus to do something. The hippocampus informs the pituitary gland that something needs to be done. The pituitary gland does what it does best. It creates a cascading parade of hormonal and chemical secretions that affects nearly every system in our body.
Heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, cortisol is released, epinephrine (adrenaline) in dumped into the system. The diaphragm tightens and we begin shallow breathing into the tops of the lungs. The immune system shuts down, digestion shuts down, tunnel vision closes our peripheral view, auditory blocking occurs.
The world is caving in, what will you do? How will you survive? The pressure mounts. The kettle is about to start whistling. And then the emotional eruption starts. That’s right. The one where we say some things or make decisions that aren’t socially acceptable. And now you’re in HR trying to explain some things.
Our bodies react to external circumstances and our dynamic environment. We react by changing our chemical and hormonal activity.
But what if we could change that?
One trick I tell my clients is to take a cigarette break. NO, not a real cigarette. Have you ever noticed the conditions in which your coworker informs you they need a smoke? It certainly isn’t when things are superb, and all is going well.
“Hey Janet. Things are going so smoothly today. I’m on top of it all right now. The only thing that would make my morning better is a smooth smoke. Could you give me a few minutes? Be right back, hon.”
Your coworker usually tells you frantically that if they don’t go outside for a smoke right now, they’re going to prison.
I know each of you has seen someone smoke a cigarette. If you haven’t paid attention, watch someone take their first drag. It’s a two-stage inhale. The smoker is inhaling through a small tube filled with tobacco and then a long cotton wad. This slows down the breathing dramatically. Then, when the lungs are apparently full, they remove the cigarette and gulp the air down into their belly.
Let’s try it.
Purse your lips to where they are almost closed, like you’re trying to whistle. Now inhale. Notice how slowly you are pulling air in? Notice how your diaphragm is straining? Notice how your brain is screaming at you to just breathe already? Okay, well do it. Open your mouth and gulp that air down.
Now, do it again. But this time, pay very close attention to how your body feels when you do it. The moment you gulp that air down to give your burning lungs some relief, feel that rush of energy going up your spine and over the top of your head. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.
Feel that? Wasn’t it amazing. What smokers don’t realize is that the nicotine they crave in these tense moments doesn’t hit the system until halfway through the second cigarette. The relief they get at the first drag is the energy created when we activate the diaphragm. When the diaphragm drops, we get a rush of energy. Many of the things I mentioned earlier about stress reactions are reversed. Given a few more breaths like this and nearly all those reactions will cease and desist.
Now that we have switched the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest), we can more effectively and efficiently deal with our environment.
Let’s get back to that jar of rocks.
The rocks represent our to do list. The jar is our time. If we try to fill our time with the smallest of our concerns, we have no time for the important tasks. This is where we must triage. We must examine our current needs and decide which are the big rocks and which is essentially sand.
Unfortunately, we must make complex decisions and choose the order in which things are done, if at all. We must tackle the most urgent categories first, then the next crucial, and so forth. This means some things, or people will have to wait. Yes, I know the world is full of entitled Karens, but they can’t get everything they want the instant they want them. Sorry Karen.
One of the toughest training a police officer must endure is active shooter training. Today it is called Active Aggressor, because firearms aren’t the only weapons used during mass incidents. The instructor introduced us to the stark reality that if we have to go into a school to stop an active event, we may encounter some kids that are already shot and hurt. They may be lying in the hall, hollering for help, pleading with us. If we stop to aid one victim, the aggressor may still be in the act of firing at more students down the hall. We must walk on by the wounded little girl and get to the source of the trouble. If we don’t continue to move forward, more innocent children may never make it home to mom. This, my friends, is deciding what size rock to put in the jar first.
Each day you will deal with phone calls, orders, demands, places to be and people to meet, emergencies, broken down cars, and more.
When I described filling the jar earlier, I mentioned shaking the jar. This is the act of taking your cigarette break. Take a moment to allow things to fall into place.
Take a cigarette break. Slow down. When stress hormones go up, rationale goes down. Keep breathing.
Then start looking for the biggest rock first.
You got this,
Joe “Weeg” Weigant is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Metaphysician, and Empowerment Coach. He combines bodywork, energy work, and coaching to relieve anxiety and depression and balance the nervous system. Weeg coaches his clients to drop the white flag of victimhood and pick up the banner of empowerment, inspiring them to stop riding in life’s trunk and take the wheel of their lives.
Weeg sells herbal products by Nature’s Sunshine, Pure Herbs Ltd. and Juice Plus. He teaches Karate and Tai Chi, Reiki Certification, as well as seminars and workshops in metaphysical and spiritual matters. Weeg is available for sessions at Tri State Holistic Wellness by appointment only.
Contact by text 812.568.5356, or Facebook Messenger to set an appointment.