I Love Stress

This, my dear readers, is my new mantra.  And it’s working.   I can’t take credit for this transformative one liner; I got it from my friend whose training as a doctor taught him to deal well with stress.  I think this a big part of reason he looks much younger than he is and has had so much success in this life.  We met recently and he noticed right away that I was pretty stressed out, anxious is the word he used.  And he was right, the day before I was in New Jersey for my grandfather’s funeral and that was just one of the things on my proverbial plate at that time.  I told him that lately I have been working on stress management techniques with a lot of my clients, which to me is a sign that I should be working on this too.  If I can’t let go of the stress and anxiety in my life, how can I ask my clients to?  I have plenty of sources with expert suggestions and advice on managing stress but something was missing and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

I suppose I should meditate, I told my friend.  He asked me why I think meditating in a quiet room will be good practice for dealing with crazy real life situations?  Good point.   Mediation, deep breathing, your yoga or stretching practice, all these things are an important component to handling stress effectively. But what happens in the moment when we find ourselves reacting the same old way and getting the same stressed out results?

Hans Selye in 1936 defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”.  Essentially, to be alive is to be experiencing stress.  Maybe stress is a good thing!  In fact I can think of several examples of stress that I really enjoy.  After my meeting I walked from Gramercy to Stuyvesant Town on the East side.  During my short walk I thought about the phrase “I love stress” and realized that the reason I love to walk around in Manhattan is because it’s one of the most stressful environments I know.  It’s chaotic, loud and full of all kinds of people going in every direction at once, truly anything can happen, at any time, what could be more captivating or exciting?!  What can you do in an environment such as this but surrender to it?  Some people might experience this as negative stress but for me, when I leave my apartment door it’s so enjoyable to get caught up in the energy and flow of the city while maintaining awareness of all that is going on around me.

Ok, so, what about the bad stress?  The stress that makes your neck and shoulders ache?  The kind that makes your stomach churn and your mood sour?  The kind of stress that makes you sick.  My old strategy for dealing with bad stress was to ignore it until it became impossible to ignore, usually resulting in my feeling unwell in some way or another.  I truly believe that every illness, however it manifests in each of our unique bodies is in some part caused by stress.  Bad stress is really the same stress as the kind I experience wandering around NYC, perceived differently.  Stress management or whatever you want to call it is about training yourself to react well to stress, good and bad.  First you’ve got to accept that stress is and always will be a part of life.  Stress is how we know we’re alive!  Try out my new mantra, it’s really simple and you can use it anytime you start to feel stressed out.  You know the cues; you tense up, maybe you clench your jaw or tighten your shoulders, you get irritable and lash out at the people around you.  None of these stress reactions will make you feel better or remedy the situation.  Instead, tell yourself this: “I love stress! Stress gives me the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to be my best even during the worst of times.”  I’ve been saying this to myself every time I feel the stress of daily living getting the best of me.  And it’s been an effective way to step back and see what’s really going on. I’ve caught myself over and over again and I already feel more calm and relaxed after only a few days.  This work definitely takes practice and self-awareness but you can change the way stress affects you and the way you perceive it.

“Resistance is futile!” Stress is all around us all the time, instead of using your energy to resist something that is, try relaxing into whatever life brings your way.  I love stress. Stress is an opportunity; it’s a lesson, a chance to grow.  I love stress because embracing that which is makes life so much easier!  Here are a few books and online resources for more information on embracing the moment, whatever it happens to be.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

The Power of Now

Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief 

Stress Management


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steven A. Branson
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 19:04:31

    Well, Amy, stress certainly is integral to life, so finding a way to accept, rather than futilly fight against it and grow a tumor, sounds like good advice




  2. Trackback: Why Yoga? « The Candida Diaries

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