Getting Better at Stress

A new book by Dr.Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, presents a fresh approach to thinking about and living with stress.  This approach is a result of extensive research being done at Yale, Duke, and other research centers on a new science of stress.  After years of seeing stress as “the devil,” we may change how we talk and think about stress, as research suggests that it is our mindset, that may be the most important determiner of how the challenges of life affect us.

“Embracing stress can make you feel more empowered in the face of challenges.  It can enable you to better use the energy of stress without burning out.  It can help you turn stressful experiences into a source of social connection rather than isolation.  And finally, it can lead you to new ways of finding meaning in suffering.”

Learning to embrace stress rather than feel victimized by it may require quite a turnround in thinking and may explain why Stanford University actually offers an entire course on learning how to transform how we think about and live with stress! And, all stress is not equal.  There are the little daily stresses of traffic, demanding customers, aches and pains, deadlines.  Then there are more serious stressors like losing a job or struggling with a job, having financial problems, being diagnosed with a serious illness or struggling with chronic anxiety of depression, the trauma of war and returning from war, loss of relationship.

Stress can have many different definitions, but we all know our unique physical and emotional reactions that tell us we are overwhelmed.  Could changing our way of seeing these reactions as helpful actually bring us closer to peace of mind?  This is the first in a series of examining strategies that may make a significant difference in building resilience.  I don’t know who said this, but it describes the process:  “The wind and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.”