Traditionally, stress means a situation where the demands and challenges that we are faced with are so great that our resources are stretched to the limit – or insufficient. Quite a few words with a negative undertone in that sentence, or how do you feel about challenges, demands, stretched to the limit or insufficient?
When you are thinking about your well-being or complaining about being too busy, it’s easy to forget that stress is not only a negative that needs to be eliminated, but also a useful driving force that keeps us going. Stress belongs to life, and at times, everyone has a lot of it. According to the Firstbeat database, about half of us at any given time report feeling at least somewhat stressed.
An elevated stress level is not only a threat, but also a sign of the body’s ability and inner potential to react to events that are happening around us, to maintain balance. For example, a demanding work project might elevate your stress level significantly to help you perform and succeed under pressure. That said, to avoid chronic stress overload, it’s important to pay attention to sufficient recovery.
The situation becomes alarming if the body is no longer able to create a stress response – the engine is worn-out, nothing feels like anything, and simply getting going requires major effort… In this kind of an extreme situation, the body has no gears to shift up to. In a Firstbeat measurement, this might show up as very few red stress reactions (and on surface, the result might look good). But if the body is continuously in an overstressed or overloaded state, it’s important to seek professional help and try to identify what might be causing the situation, for example underlying illness.
Inner Voice Can Change the Way You React to Stress
Stress is a natural reaction of the autonomic nervous system , but you CAN influence it to some degree. There are a multitude of stress management tools and tricks available that can help keep your stress level in check when things are getting crazy. Typical methods include better structuring and organization of your days or techniques to activate, calm down or relax your mind and body. Or maybe you swear by a new stress-busting device, herbs or pills. It’s good to have the courage to try different things and the desire to solve challenges.
However, what if you honored this international stress awareness month by taking a few steps back and getting back to the very definition of stress?
In the end, it’s your inner voice and narrative that you use to build your own world view and status updates. When feeling stressed, problems tend to look a lot bigger, and your reactions might be excessive considering the situation on hand. Even if you might be aware of this, it can be very difficult to react in a calm and positive manner.
If your inner voice included more shades and degrees of moderation and gentleness, I’m convinced that your mind and body might react differently. What if you did not HAVE TO (do something)? So what if everything did not go according to plan? What if a bit less was enough – would the situation be a lot worse, or maybe even a bit better? What would it feel like if you had more COULDs and less SHOULDs?
Forget Constant Effectiveness Thinking – ”Good Enough” Can Be Enough
Even small changes in the way you react to things can help you see and experience the world in a different way. I’m a bit of a hedonist myself, and I feel that now is a good opportunity to try this philosophy, in honor of stress awareness month.
Are you onboard? The simple goal is to keep the words below out of this month’s vocabulary:
❌ more effective
Instead, how about this being enough:
✅ good enough
✅ in the right amounts
✅ it’s ok like this
If and when things do not go as planned, instead of worrying and blaming yourself, why not accept and embrace the experience and try again when the time is right. It’s not the end of the world (even if it might feel like it at first). Life keeps going.
When you take time to think and feel, instead of being stuck in a “must-do mindset”, the journey is more enjoyable and meaningful. Furthermore, a more stress-free attitude towards yourself and life in general might offer some insights and moments of joy that you cannot see when plowing ahead with blinders on your eyes. A calmer mind influences the body’s reactions positively.
Projects to make changes in stress management or lifestyle habits often feel laborious, but this challenge is not too big – it should be easy and liberating. And if it starts to make you anxious, remember that you don’t HAVE TO. Let’s utilize stress in the right amounts, but turn on cruise control, with good conscience, when the speed is getting to be too much.
This blog is a translation of Jaakko Kotisaari´s original blog in Finnish.
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