In my last few columns I’ve been discussing Reorganize, the fifth level of defense against stress in my Five R’s of Coping (Rethink, Reduce, Relax, Release, Reorganize) Model©. As I discussed, Reorganize is a lifestyle-based based approach to conquering your stress that makes you more hardy and stress-resistant.
In my last column I discussed reorganizing your environmental well-being. In this column I’ll talk about how to reorganize your intellectual well-being and continue your quest to become more stress-resistant by building a healthier lifestyle.
Your intellectual well-being revolves around your ability to think clearly and logically and make good decisions based on this. Thinking clearly and logically revolves around your ability to be objective and see through all the media noise, mixed messages, and misinformation that not only contributes to your stress but also to your overall quality of life. Being able to distinguish fact from fiction depends on the extent of your knowledge as well as the way you use it.
A key to reducing stress is knowing as much as you can about a potential stressor. Knowledge gives you power and control in your life. This can help defuse it as a stressor by reducing the fear it may cause. Often fear is a by-product of ignorance. If you’ve survived high school you’ve probably gotten a good start in your quest for an intelligent life. Many people choose to continue their formal learning by attending college and graduate school. Others choose to enter the workforce or the military.
Whatever path you choose, your opportunities for learning never cease. The more you take advantage of learning opportunities through school, work, community involvement, or travel the broader your knowledge base becomes. This also broadens your perspective on life and stress. The broader your perspective, the less stressed you will be when confronted with people, cultures, and situations that differ from what you are used to. Research has shown that hatred for people because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation is often caused by ignorance and fear of the unknown. Remember, the stress response begins in your brain with your perception of threat. Having a broader perspective on people and situations that are different will help reduce your fear, mistrust, and hate and become another tool in your repertoire of coping strategies.
Being a lifelong learner will help you continue to broaden your perspective and reduce your stress. The following exercise will give you some tips for becoming a lifelong learner.
Reorganize Exercise: Becoming a Life-Long Learner
Purpose: A big part of reorganizing your intellectual well-being is being committed to learning new things. One of the hallmarks of people whose minds remain sharp well into older adulthood is their commitment to keep learning new things. They are lifelong learners. The following exercise, Becoming a Life-Long Learner, is designed to help you commit to continue to learn for the rest of your life.
1. Think about all of the things you wanted to do and learn about in your life but never got the chance to accomplish.
2. Forget about all of the reasons and excuses for not doing them in the past.
3. Pick one new activity, something you have never experienced and want to learn more about.
4. Obtain a copy of the adult education catalog from your local city or town’s Office of Adult Continuing Education. If your town doesn’t have such a program, contact the closest community college or four year institution and obtain theirs. Most colleges and universities have departments of Continuing Education that offer non-credit courses for members of the community.
5. Pick one course you think you’d love to take.
6. Describe the course and your reasons for choosing it.
7. After three months of being enrolled in the course describe something new that you learned and how it broadened your perspective on your life.
There are countless other ways to reorganize your intellectual well-being but taking courses through adult school programs is relatively painless, inexpensive, and easily achievable. You might also find this an excellent way to reorganize your social well-being as you are likely to make new friends and expand your social network.
In my next column we’ll focus on reorganizing your emotional well-being. Until then remember to Stress Less and Live More.
Dr. Rich Blonna is an expert in understanding how the mind and body work together in creating and managing stress. He is the author of several stress self-help books and courses and the popular college textbook, Coping With Stress in a Changing World 5th Ed; McGraw-Hill Publishing. He is a retired Professor Emeritus from William Paterson University in New Jersey. For over 25 years he has devoted himself to helping people just like you stress less and live more. www.drrichblonna.com.