Stressful Life | Stress Article Series, Article 6: An Empowered, Stressful Life

An Empowered, Stressful Life

In her book “the Upside of Stress”, Kelly McGonigal writes:

“When you believe that stress is harmful, anything that feels a bit stressful can start to feel like an intrusion in your life. Whether it’s waiting in line at the grocery store, rushing to meet a deadline at work, or planning a holiday dinner for your family, everyday experiences can start to seem like a threat to your health and happiness. You may find yourself complaining about these experiences, as if your life has gone off course and there is some stress free version of it out there waiting for you.”

These days, what people usually name as sources of everyday stress included juggling schedules, running errands, commuting, social media, and household tasks. These are not unusual or unexpected components of life, but we often act as if they are unreasonable impositions, keeping us from living the life we are really supposed to be living. But since stress can’t be avoided, maybe it would really serve us to stop acting like it can be?

Instead, let’s get good at stress by USING it, choose to see a racing heart as a resource – which then in turn gives our confidence a boost. Let’s remember the vicious circle that comes from trying to eliminate stress: we feel stress which creates anxiety which creates fear which makes us avoid which creates more anxiety….etc. The faster we identify the presence of stress, the faster we can embrace it and manage it. One trick to recognizing it sooner is to think of it as a friend that’s coming to help out, or give the feeling of stress a color or associate it with your favorite pet. This makes our physical stress response more tangible and now we are ahead of the game, welcoming it the moment it shows up, no longer just a victim to what used to feel like a scary feeling in our bodies.

Clearly, no one is saying that stress is amazing and won’t ever be harmful. But if we can nurture a balanced relationship to stress, lose the anxiety we connect to it and feel empowered by the boosts it gives us, then we are setting ourselves up for an easier, happier, more empowered life. Now we also learn to recognize the times when our worry has called forth a stronger response than what is truly needed, and by recognizing it we can let it go much more easily than if it’s just a general uncomfortable feeling.

Today’s Transformational Practice: Use a word or Phrase to welcome/recognize the stress when you notice it. Maybe “Hello there, helpful Friend!” or “I’ve got this” or “Ease” – whatever works for you. This will heighten your awareness of when stress enters, it reminds you of the stress serving as your ally and you simultaneously remind yourself that you are in charge of your experience, rather than having something happen to you.

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