• davewofford

Stress is Your Friend

Kelly McGonigal posted a great TED talk about stress. In short, she concludes that our beliefs about stress have a greater impact on our physical health than do the actual types

and amounts of stress we face. She points to research that in

dicates that the belief that stress is dangerous is actual more dangerous than stress itself.

Interesting, yes?

Most of the people I’ve worked with would cite stress as an unequivocally damaging force in their life. Over-packed schedules, unrealistic work commitments, family demands, financial pressures – there is a veritable unholy mantra of suffering that many of us could recite, resulting in an immediate spike in blood pressure and stress hormones.

Teachers provide an interesting example, in that they often have ridiculous workloads during the school year, and they also enjoy relatively long breaks. This contrast is informative. A common phenomenon among teachers (especially those without families and travel plans) is the summer doldrums – a period when the lack of stress is actually as oppressive to well-being as the frenzied circus of the school year.

Taking a lesson from Dr. McGonigal and the plight of the schoolteacher, it may be worth our time to acknowledge that stress is a necessary part of a healthy life. Feeling challenged, stimulated, engaged – these experiences require a stressor of some kind. Our problem then would not be the presence of stress but an attitude about it that inhibits our skill in finding the right stress for us.

There is a balance, unique to each of us, wherein stimulation and relaxation find a harmonious (not to be confused with equal) coexistence, resulting in the felt experience of satisfaction. Neither agitation nor boredom can flourish because as the engineers of our own lives we are mindful in choosing the levels of stimulation and relaxation that nourish us.

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