We seem to be incredibly focused on managing stress in our society these days. Just like our war on terror and that (losing battle of a) war on drugs, we seem to be also waging a full on war on stress. We do anti-stress yoga, de-stressing massage, anti-stress skin creams, anti-stress vitamin supplements not to mention anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals! You can’t go to the bank to make a deposit without seeing a big, colorful sign offering “stress-free banking!” My wife recently brought home an anti-stress adult coloring book! And admittedly, we had a great time coloring together.
A tremendous amount of medical and psychological research has been focused on combatting stress as a guide to enhance our general mood, emotional affect and level of happiness. The recent inroads in Positive Psychology and Happiness Theories have added a more holistic spin to simple Prozac Therapy. Researchers not only claim that beating stress down will improve your life but that it will also push back your imminent death.
And still, stress happens.
All of our efforts do seem to chip away at stress in small nuggets but do not completely eradicate it from our lives. In fact, it raises the question as to whether eliminating stress is such a hot idea? Stanford University psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, author of The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good At It, suggests that:
“Whether you think stress is good or bad for you, you’re right.”
McGonigal makes a really strong case for the benefit of stress in our life. She actually suggests, and I agree with her, that stress actually offers us some healthy challenges and opportunities to face healthy obstacles and teaches us how to be resilient to such moments in life where things do not go as we planned or wished! As so many things in life, it all comes down to the way we respond or react to the stress. Largely, this is tied to the meaning we assign the challenge. Our reality is always shaped by the meaning we give it.
So, think about your typical, knee-jerk reaction to typical stressful situations. Do you invariably consider these challenges to be toxic, negative, “the world is against me” kinds of things or do you look at them as an opportunity to rise above and crush it? In this way, we redefine stress as more of a meaning issue than an actual life issue. Perhaps the problem is a misunderstanding of our relationship with stress that’s the issue, not the stress itself!
I would be delighted to discuss the way you respond to stress in your life and devise strategies together in how you might transform these healthy challenges into deep personal growth!
So, here’s to trusting that there is no monkey on your back, just a chance to THRIVE!!!!