How many articles have you read in the last month about how bad stress is for your health? A simple Google search for the phrase “stress damages health” turns up 42,400,000 results—yikes! Does reading all these articles about how stress damages your health actually stress you out? Me too! Here’s the deal. Stress is a constant. It exists in our jobs, our homes, and our hobbies.
Stress will also continue to increase as technology becomes ever more complex, as people become ever more connected through that technology, and as the line between working life and personal life continues to blur. Stress is here to stay—get used to it.
Instead of making stress the enemy, why not take a few moments to appreciate stress? Focusing on the positive outcomes of stress and the meaning behind stressful events can ease the tension that stressors present.
Case in point: I spent the summer of 1999 living just outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina, doing mission work in a poor village. Summer in the United States meant winter in South America, and it was literally freezing . . . all summer (ahem, winter) long. We had no heat. That was stressful.
I focused all of my brainpower on wishing I was somewhere warmer and visualizing myself on a Caribbean island. I wanted these thoughts to alleviate my stress; however, both dwelling on my discomfort and pretending that I could “imagine” myself out of itincreased it exponentially. In contrast, the native Argentines felt the same cold that I did, but I rarely if ever heard them complain about the climate.
Instead, they put some extra blankets on the bed and poured another steaming cup of yerba mate. They embraced each other more and huddled together. They lived life where they were, as they were, without constantly wishing for things to be different.
In effect, they embraced the stress, and used the cold climate to build deeper friendships and to support each other in uncomfortable times.
The key thing to remember is that stress only exists around an event that is meaningful. A high school student taking a test who knows she still has a drop grade to use won’t be stressed over that test. Contrast that student with another who has already used his drop grade and who must make an A on the test to keep from failing the class. He’s going to be stressed about that test – not because of the test itself but because of the significance of the test to his overall class grade.
You may feel stress at your job. Good. That means your job matters. Take a few deep breaths, and remember the meaning behind your work. When you argue with your spouse or your child, remember that there is deep meaning in that relationship; otherwise, disagreements with those people wouldn’t matter.
Remaining mindful within stressful moments, coupled with remembering the value and meaning behind stressful events, can shift your thinking about stress from negative to positive and will enable you to handle the daily stress of life without overwhelm. Try it…and please let me know how it helps.
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