For a recent show we formulated The Great American Stress Test for viewers to calculate exactly how stressed out they are and identify possible triggers. I was curious about how much stress I was carrying, so in the spirit of sound research, I wore a monitor to measure and chart my own stress levels. The results of 2 days with a device strapped around my chest revealed 3 large spikes in my stress. The first surge occurred while I was stuck in traffic, which is not surprising, because nothing drives me crazy as much as twiddling my thumbs when I have somewhere to be. The other 2 spikes were pre-performance jitters – once before surgery and once before going into the studio for my show taping. After I began both processes, I calmed down and became comfortable, channeling this adrenaline into focus.
I was thinking about this experience as I relaxed with Lisa on the couch later that evening to watch an episode of American Idol. I was surprised to learn that both James Durbin and Casey Abrams face chronic health conditions. Click here to see me explain Casey’s ulcerative colitis and James’ Asperger’s and Tourette Syndrome. For both these young men, stress exacerbates the severity of the symptoms – and I can’t imagine anything more stressful than singing live in front of millions of people only to have Jennifer Lopez evaluate you.
The courage of these men as they face their chronic health symptoms in the limelight is dazzling. I remember feeling similar awe toward Tim Howard, the Team USA goalie who has Tourette Syndrome. Watching a world-class athlete is amazing in many respects, but Tim’s performance was impressive on another level.
These gentlemen are great role models for people with chronic health conditions. They collect their mental and physical focus and channel it all into their performance, providing a great example for all of us. The next time you’re stressed out, think of these brave individuals whose stress underscores their daily struggles. Take a deep breath, and focus on the situation at hand. Find a passion to pour your focus and energy into, and take control of stress before it takes control of you.