What’s your mental image of a completely stress-free life? Relaxing on the beach in a tropical paradise? Cuddling up with your dog in front of a roaring fire? Hanging with friends at your local brewpub?
These are wonderful moments in our lives, but if you stayed in that moment for long, you’d discover one of two things:
- You’d get bored with the sameness of it all, and distressed that you could manage to be bored in that perfect setting.
- You’d face lots of stress as a result of failing to get things done. As you lost your job, friendships and family relationships withered from lack of attention, and you were evicted from your home, the stress of fixing those problems would overshadow the perfection of the moment.
Whichever happened first, you’d find that your sweet spot was no longer so sweet.
The sweet spot for a human being, it turns out, is not a no-stress spot. The sweet spot is where you’re using stress for good.
Athletes push themselves out of their comfort zones, pushing their bodies to do more than is easy and natural. This creates stress. But it’s good. The story that goes with that stress is this:
- I’m getting stronger and better at what I do.
Many of the sources of stress in our daily lives have to do with interruptions, or frustrations, difficult interactions, or worries. The story we tell ourselves about these stressors is often more like this:
- I can’t take much more of this! My life is out of control!
It’s not that we can’t handle stress. It’s that our bodies are designed to deal with stress occasionally, for short times, in limited amounts.That kind of stress — the kind that goes with the story athletes tell themselves — strengthens us. It helps us become more resilient and more capable.
When stress is too great for us, too long lasting, or imposed on us rather than chosen, it can be overwhelming. Chronic stress can increase chances of heart disease, stroke, headaches, stomach upset, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and many more physical and emotional problems.
The key is to find the sweet spot for stress, the point where stress is building more strength rather than tearing you down.
Here are some steps toward the sweet spot:
- Build anti-stress activities, such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, regular exercise, and meditation into your life. Taking time to do these things strengthens your stress responses and gives you positive habits to tap into when you feel pressure.
- Identify and reduce stress triggers that keep your stress level high on a daily basis. This could mean leaving early to reduce the stress from your commute or changing a pattern in your interactions with family members or even packing yourself a healthy lunch the night before a work day.
- When you can, accept stress as a challenge, an exciting event, or an opportunity to get stronger. When you can see stressors as stretching a little bit further, lifting a slightly heavier weight, or pushing the limits of your strength, they can be a positive rather than a negative experience.
It depends on the story you’re telling yourself… and it’s your story.
But sometimes we need help. An outside observer who can help us deal with stress better. If that’s where you are, contact us.