The other day I watched an interesting TED Talk by Kelly McGonical about the real purpose of stress that totally shatters my pre-conceieved notion of what stress is. Stress in a nutshell, is your body’s way of gearing you up to meet your challenges. While it is true that sometimes bad things happen that cause us stress (divorce, death, illness, financial problems, etc.), it is NOT something to fear or avoid. Stress gives us that extra “oomph” that helps us to achieve our goals (which is probably why I procrastinate so much…I need an extra level of stress to get stuff done.) It was an awesome talk with lots of great information that’s definitely worth watching and contemplating, but it was what she said toward the end that really struck a chord with me. She said that rather than running from discomfort, we should search for meaning, and whatever discomfort (stress) comes our way, we would be able to handle it because we’re doing something meaningful.
That made my husband and I think about the things we’ve run from, and the things we’ve run toward, and we’ve found this to be true in our lives. College, marriage, kids….all those things brought (and bring) a decent amount of stress in our life, but because it’s something we chose, something we are passionate about keeping in our lives, the stress (usually) works to our advantage, giving us energy and courage to do the uncomfortable things.
When my husband left his job in Oregon, it was literally because it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth living out of Hawaii, away from family. It wasn’t worth it financially, mentally, emotionally. We were enduring a lot of stress and because we realized (after we got there…of course) that we weren’t particularly excited or passionate about being there, we didn’t accept and manage our stress well, and decided to leave. It was actually better to be unemployed in Hawaii…
This is why it’s so important to do the things that matter, because we’re going to experience stress no matter what. We shouldn’t spend our lives trying to get away from it, but rather in puruit of the things that give our lives meaning, and by default, we will have a more positive relationship with stress because we’re doing positive things with our lives. If we’re doing work we love, then our stress will sustain us, buoy us up and cause us to rise to the occasion.
Is your attitude toward stress negatively affecting you? Does re-framing it this way help?