Updated: Oct 11
When most people think of stress they think of it as something that they would like to eliminate from their lives. They think of stress as something that makes their lives worse rather than better. They believe that eliminating stress from their lives is what would improve their lives. Not many people think having stress could make their lives better. Is that even possible?
WHAT STRESS CAN TEACH US
It has been my experience that stress has a lot to teach us about improving our lives. In fact, a lot of stress comes from not being conscious of how we live our lives and the choices we make which lead to the consequences we end up having to live with. Look at what’s causing you stress now. Is it work? Too many hours, the type of responsibilities you have, the people you have to work with? Is it family? Too much conflict, not enough support, very little communication? Is it the unexpected? Unexpected bills, expenses, illness?
The things that cause you stress are not the same things that cause another person stress. This is because we have different lessons to learn from stress. Lessons about ourselves, our lives and how we deal with stress.
LESSONS ABOUT OURSELVES
How many people do you know could handle the things that you’re dealing with now? I know that when I was under a lot of stress I felt that few people could have remained as organized and focused as me and they told me so. So take a look at yourself.
- One of the biggest things that stress teaches us about ourselves is how much we can take on before falling apart. Some people can take on more than others.
- Stress teaches us about our level of skill at being organized and being able to make effective decisions under pressure.
- Stress shows us how effective we can be even with less time and resources.
What skills are you using to deal with your current stress? I bet that this stress is making those skills better. I’m sure that stress is also bringing out some unpleasant qualities in you too but take some time to acknowledge the positive qualities that stress brings out in you. Once you acknowledge these qualities, look to see how these qualities can help you reduce your stress. For example, recognizing my organizational skills made me see how taking time to organize my workspace greatly reduced some of my work stress. (Now, if I can find time to tackle my email folders…).
LESSONS ABOUT OUR LIVES
Stress can teach us a lot about how we live our lives vs. how we would like to live our lives. This discrepancy between the reality of our lives and how we would like our lives to be can contribute a lot to our feeling of stress. The more we ignore this, the more stressed we feel. Except, instead of looking at the gap between how are lives are currently and how we would like it to be, we look only at what our lives are currently like and see all the things that cause us stress.
Stress can teach us about the things we need to change in our lives. But the only way to do this is to focus on the gap. Start by asking yourself what is the essence of how you would like your life to be. Would you like your life to be more peaceful, have less responsibility, more joy? You may have an idea of what you would like your ideal life to look like but, if you focus on the essence of your ideal life, you’ll still end up creating something that is more attainable with the same result as your ideal life.
For each of us, closing the gap requires different changes. For some, it may require consciously setting aside time to spend with loved ones. For others, it may mean delegating duties or deciding that the world will continue to spin even if a certain duty is not done or done by you. For others, it may mean making different lifestyle choices such as downsizing or moving. Either way, stop focusing on what’s wrong in your life and start focusing on what stress is trying to tell you about your life — close the gap.
LESSONS ON DEALING WITH STRESS
Finally, stress teaches us a lot about how we deal with stress. When you have to deal with a stressful situation, do you tend to avoid it, get someone else to deal with it, or let it take over your mind and life? In my book, The Art of Loving Life, and through my online stress management training, How to Develop Resiliency and Stress Hardiness, I show you how to recognize your stress management style.
By looking at how you have dealt with stress in the past, you can see a pattern in how you deal with stress now. Once you see that pattern, you can decide for yourself how effective this pattern is for you. Has your pattern resulted in lowering your stress, dealing with it or procrastinating from it? Only you can determine if your way of dealing with stress is working to make your life better. But this can only happen if you’re willing and ready to become conscious of your stress management style.
Without stress, life would be boring. We would never be motivated to be our best, we would never be driven to do better, we would never think about improving our lives. The feelings that come from stress cause us to look at our lives and decide
- I am going to win this race
- I am going to get a better job
- I am going to focus on the people who care about me
- I am going to take better care of my health
- I am going to start focusing on what really matters
You have a choice. You can stick with your current pattern of dealing with stress or you can learn from it and make your life better.