Stress just seems to keep on increasing in modern life. And there is evidence for that! According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, at least one third of Americans report that they are living with extreme stress, and about half of Americans think life keeps on getting more stressful. Despite the modern conveniences and the technological advances we enjoy, stress just keeps on looming larger in our lives. Money and work were at the top of the leading causes of stress, which is not surprising in our uncertain and challenging economy.
How and we thrive in face of our life stresses and not just survive it? We need to develop the right mindset in regarding stress as not completely coming from outside of ourselves, but rather it is our interpretation and our take on things that determines our stress. So if you think that traffic stresses you out, or your coworker drives you crazy, think again. Traffic or your co-worker only have the power because you give them the power. It is impossible for them to directly stress you out and change the neurons in your head, as our attitude towards them is what causes our stress. With that in mind, stress that seems to come from the outside really mostly comes from between your ears, and the good news is we have more power to control that than most realize!
Sometimes it helps to use analogies to better appreciate life’s dilemmas, and what is a better analogy to our lives than Swiss Cheese with all it’s holes? Like the Swiss, our lives have inevitable “holes,” and “imperfections,” and it these holes give us our unique character and depth.
So we can develop a handle on the stresses in our lives by learning the top five important life lessons that the Swiss can teach us.
1. Swiss Cheese has holes, and so does our lives: Without the holes, there would be no Swiss as we know it, and without the holes in our lives, the stresses, the disappointments and the setbacks, our lives would not be rich or flavorful. In fact, it is a fact that the holes of the Swiss, the sweeter and more distinctive the cheese. What an analogy to our lives! We develop resiliency by overcoming challenges and obstacles. By moving through life’s holes rather than getting stuck in them, we become stronger. It might be nice is life was more smooth and predictable like cream cheese or American, but life is not like that!
2. The Holes in the cheese are called eyes: This is another fact about the cheese that is especially pertinent to our understanding of stress. The holes in our lives that allow us to “see more clearly” and develop insight. If we did not have the holes in our lives, we would not have the opportunity to learn and grow though life’s stresses and obstacles. In fact, Swiss Cheese with no holes is called blind Swiss – and by ignoring the holes and wishing them away would be like going through your life with your eyes closed – just the blind Swiss – otherwise known as cheese in denial!
3. We accept the Swiss as it is: We do not judge that the Swiss has too many holes and not enough – the Swiss just “IS.” Likewise, if we accept life has inevitable holes than we will not judge it or wish it away. We will embrace what happens with the confidence that we can handle what comes our way.
4. There is a positive side to the holes: The holes in the cheese make the cheese lighter, less caloric, and more distinctive. The holes are not “bad” and neither is the stress in our lives. Much of our stress is positive and we ask more and more of that type of stress! Pour body might not know it and we might still get the butterflies, but the positive side of stress can not be denied. Just think of getting married, going on vacation, having a baby, playing in or watching the “big game.” As Stress pioneer Hans Selye said, Stress is the spice of life!”
5. Fondue can never turn back into a block of cheese: Once the Cheese melts into fondue, it can never go back to be in a cheese wheel. What is done is done. However, so much stress is caused by ruminations and “woulda coulda shouldas” of that can not be changed, causing undue stress on most people. Give up the habit of looking back with regret – there are no do-overs and by focusing too much about the past and what can’t be changed will keep you stuck in a hole!
6. There is no such thing as a perfect slice of cheese: No two slices of cheese are alike, and you are unique also. Striving for perfection brings on undue negative stress, and brings about low self esteem and is a set up for failure. Accept yourself as you do the cheese with all its’ holes – build on your failures and setbacks instead of being defined by them as somehow flawed. Strive for goodness, not perfection.
Hopefully, with the Swiss Cheese Theory of Life mindset, you will savor the taste of stressing for success and will not only survive but thrive through life’s holes! With the right mindset, you can think straight to feel great! So what are you waiting for? Smile and say CHEESE!