Survival Smarts, Part 1: Surviving or Thriving?
Survival smarts is the fifth key part of total health designed by nature. You contend daily with survival issues that take place between your body and a friendly or unfriendly outside world. Survival issues include protection, safety, clothing and shelter. They also include reproduction, parenting, education and fulfilling basic needs.
Safety and reproduction are the key survival needs. One makes sure that the race goes on. The other protects and cares for your children. Deliberate, inspired creation of safety serves both of these needs. Survival smarts are part courage and part skill. Courage is showing up with presence and power, ready to engage. Skillful methods and procedures determine how to act into an emerging situation.
Our distant ancestors’ stress was mainly about dealing with physical dangers in order to ensure physical survival. Today, most stress is mental. But your brain, body, immune and hormonal systems respond to mental and physical stress in the same way. While your mind, made up of thoughts, concepts, beliefs, memories and imagination is not actually real, you use it to set direction and limits for your actions—what you will and will not do. These determine limitations, direction, goals and destinies. The mental part of survival pain is usually called stress. There’s too much to do. Fear of failure and living under pressure call your survival into question.
You’re surrounded by gifts and dangers. You use gifts to make physical existence safer, easier or more bearable. You avoid dangers by fighting, fleeing, freezing or withdrawing. Facing or anticipating dangers, life creates stress molecules that prime your body to flee or fight.
The physical activities involved in dealing with stress break down the stress molecules. If these are not broken down, stress molecules linger and negatively affect your health. This is especially likely to happen in mentally stressful situations in which you lack options to act physically. Inactive, you stew in chronic stress chemistry that damages health.
Today, most of your chronic stressors are like that—mental. You’re under job pressure to perform to specifications in bosses’ minds and you may not know exactly what the boss expects of you. That’s stressful. You may have competition that puts pressure on you. People may scheme to get your position at work by undermining you. Your boss may be unfair but you don’t get to beat him up. Your co-workers may criticize, belittle or even abuse you, but you can’t quit the job. You may be subject to indecent proposals and worry about losing the job if you reject improper advances. All these can lead you to stressful fear, anger and anxiety. These kinds of chronic stress burn out your adrenal glands and can be destructive to all of your body systems. We’ll talk later in this chapter about the anatomy of stress and its cure. It’s simpler than you may think.
Survival requires your attention, but ultimately your body will fail. If survival is your only purpose for living, your later years will be filled with anxiety and fear as you watch your body age, wrinkle, slow down and deteriorate. Making survival your reason for living isn’t enough, so create a larger purpose to live for, and give your energy, mind and body to that. It can keep you charged and vibrant until the day your body wears out. Live aware that you are life, rather than your body. You are the body’s owner. In the end, leave your worn out body without fear or regret, knowing that you lit up the world.
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