When I was studying to be an engineer, I learned that every material has a “stress point” — the limit of force that a material can tolerate. Push any material past this point and it either becomes nonfunctional or it breaks apart.
Humans have stress points, too, though ours work in more complex ways. Stress itself is normal — it happens to all of us. Our bodies are designed to adapt to it, and we’re all equipped with the same basic physiological response mechanism (think fight or flight).
Though often portrayed as negative, stress can be positive. It can be a sign that we care about the circumstances, and a motivating force that spurs us to action.
For example, when we first started building Life Time, I learned a rival company was looking at real estate in the same area where we wanted to build. Initially, I felt a surge of anxiety, but it transformed into competitive pressure that made me work harder.
I had a comparable reaction at the start of the pandemic when our athletic resorts across the country shut down. Then we stopped for a moment, analyzed the situation, and got to work. It became an opportunity for our team to focus on areas, like digital, that had been secondary to club operations. We accomplished more in six months than we would have in six years.
It’s a similar dynamic that occurs with physical exercise, when we purposely stress our heart and muscles to make them grow bigger and stronger. The stress in all these instances is a motivating and galvanizing force, not a weakening one.
Stress becomes a problem for our mental and physical health, however, when we’re constantly subjected to it without relief or relaxation. If we ignore or neglect it, or develop negative coping mechanisms to deal with it, we can be pushed to points where even the calmest, most collected of us will lose our equilibrium — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
So many of our most destructive (and least rewarding) stress experiences occur daily within the confines of our minds. We can start to panic thinking about what could happen. We lose sight of the moment and become vulnerable as we worry about the what ifs.
What’s truly amazing to me, though, is how we, as humans, can discern this feeling, and that we can step back and get perspective. We can intentionally pause and notice the factors influencing our stress, which allows us to see the potential challenges and be more deliberate with our next actions.
We have methods and tools to help us manage this variable and dynamic relationship. As we practice them with greater consistency, we can start to identify whether that stress is good and motivating or is pushing us toward unnecessary breaking points.
This is why the team at Life Time recently introduced Meditation in the Life Time Digital app: Integrating daily meditation and mindfulness practices into our routines and rituals is crucial for maintaining a healthy way of life.
Meditation and mindfulness have become regular practices for me; they help me navigate life’s inevitable stress with less impulsivity and more intention. There is alchemy in the breath, and sitting still for even a few moments each day gives me a better perspective.
The good news is there are many mindfulness tools and resources available to all of us whenever we need them: a few deeps breaths, a mantra, a workout, a journaling practice, a grounding exercise that places us back in the here and now. With these intentional pauses, we can strengthen our capacity to handle whatever comes our way with greater resilience and more confidence.
And like ripples on a pond, the positive energy we create as individuals has the potential to expand. By slowing down, becoming aware of our thought process, and being present, we can positively influence not just our own well-being, but also that of our families and our wider communities.
So take a moment, perhaps even right now, to commit to your own consistent practice. And the next time you feel stressed, trust that the time you dedicate to building that resource will help you navigate your path and live your healthiest, happiest life.