Stress is commonly seen as universally bad. And methods of stress-relief are also likely to be poorly portrayed in the media. (The photo above shows the image search results for “stress.” Not one photo of someone having the time of their life on a roller coaster or the guest of honor at a surprise party.)
Just as the air in your lungs = life; the stress in our lives = purpose & meaning
Extremism is most often wrong. If there were a “Reality Store” it would only sell items in gray – not black and white. Because reality is often in the gray middle.
Stress is often portrayed as BAD (loss of a job, death of a loved one, etc.) or GOOD (job promotion, new baby, etc.). But in between these two lies the “gray” stress or subjective stress.
Partly determined by our mindset, how we perceive all the things that happen to us can leave us “feeling stressed” at everything or feeling focused and engaged by the challenges.
The universally bad stress – the kind most often studied in lab rats – is often unpredictable, uncontrollable, and completely devoid of meaning (forced starvation, for example).
The stress in our lives rarely fits this description. Our stress is more likely to be of the more garden variety “life coming at you” stuff that we must handle as part of adulthood.
Stress can be a source of great meaning, purpose, and giving us something to strive for.
If we are experiencing too much of the bad stress (or just are in the middle of being a flawed human and still working on having healthier responses to the normal stresses of adult life), then we are often told to “practice stress management techniques.”
It is often a predictable list of stuff like yoga, meditation, walking, sit quietly and breathe, etc. This is the wrong approach. Stress relief is in the eye of the beholder.
These things are helpful if they help to relieve YOUR stress. The best coping mechanisms (the healthy ones…I’m not referring to mainlining red wine), are the ones that you know work for YOU. Maybe you hate yoga and get agitated when you try to meditate.
Perhaps you get stress relief from playing with your dog, tossing a ball around with a kid, a tough workout, or cooking, gardening, or some other hobby. YOU can employ the stress management techniques that work for YOU, not the ones that are on some list of stress-management techniques.
I Can’t Stress This Enough 😁
Stress is not all bad and stress management techniques are not all good. Both are highly individualized to you.
The best we can hope for is to (1) get better at interpreting subjectively stressful events and (2) note what our personal stress management techniques are rather than forcing ourselves to use those from a set list of options.