The Secret to Overcoming Busyness and Stress

Author and motivational speaker Jon Gordon reminds us that our relationships are the key to getting through difficult times.

By Jon Gordon, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Dharma "the love dog" greets me as I walk out of my bedroom in the morning. Then she rolls on her back letting me know she wants me to rub her belly. I really want to but I can’t stop thinking of all the things I have to do today. I feel busy, stressed and the last thing I want to do is stop to pet my dog.

Dharma must sense what I’m feeling because she gives me this loving look as if to say, “Don’t walk away. Pet me. It will benefit you as much as it does me.”

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I’ve read the research and I know she’s right. Petting our dogs reduces our stress, boosts our immune system, enhances our happiness and improves our overall well-being. If I would just stop for a few moments and spend quality time with her I would be the one who benefits most.

It’s the same way with the relationships in our life.

If we made time to invest in our relationships and spent quality time with our family, friends and colleagues we would dramatically improve the quality of our lives and careers.

Yet, too often busyness and stress cause us to focus on what is urgent instead of what matters most. We focus on our to-do list instead of people and our own survival instead of building thriving relationships.

That’s why I often say that busyness and stress are the enemies of great marriages, leadership, teamwork, relationships and customer service. Busyness and stress keep us from caring about the people and things we are supposed to care about.

In many ways it’s not our fault. Science tells us that when we feel busy and stressed, we activate the reptilian part of our brain. If you know anything about reptiles they will never love you. Reptiles want to eat you. They are all about survival. And so are we when we feel busy and stressed.

Creating meaningful relationships is the last thing on our mind when we are stressed. Instead our reptilian brain is thinking about how to just make it through the day and it will eat anyone for lunch that gets in its way.

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The good news, however, is that we have another part of the brain called the neocortex. I call it the Positive Dog part of our brain and we activate it when we love, care, pray and practice gratitude. In any moment we can override the reptile with the positive dog.

We can choose to love people instead of ignoring them. We can choose to slow down instead of rushing. And we can choose to be thankful instead of stressed.

In fact, the research shows we can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time. So anytime we are feeling busy and stressed we can pause, take some deep breaths, focus on gratitude, and change how we approach the day and the people in our life.

This brings us back to Dharma as she waits for me to rub her belly. My reptilian brain is telling me to keep moving, hurry up, eat breakfast and ignore the dog. But I can’t. I won’t.

The Positive Dog book coverJon Gordon is a speaker, consultant and author of several books. His principles have been put to the test by numerous NFL, NBA, MLB coaches and teams, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, hospitals and non-profits. Learn more at jongordon.com. To read more about the science and benefits of positivity read The Positive Dog. To read more about cultivating engaged relationships read Soup.