The Secret of Using Stress to Grow
by Linda-Ann Stewart
Stress has gotten to be a hot button issue in our society. We read articles, books, take classes and seminars to manage and reduce our stress. The message we get is that we need to completely eliminate stress from our lives. But common, everyday stress isn’t the real culprit that causes all of the trouble.
Hans Selye, a researcher, coined the term “stress,” and made the distinction between stress and distress. Distress is when we have so much going on internally or externally that our mental and emotional resources are overwhelmed. We all know what it’s like to have a deadline for a project, a loved one sick, the car break down, and, as a result, be irritable or exhausted. This kind of trouble, if it continues for a period of time, will begin to affect not only our mental health, but our physical health. This is what all the talk about stress is addressing.
Believe it or not, everyday stress can be a good thing. If we just coast through life, we don’t learn anything. With no challenges, no obstacles to overcome, we don’t develop new ways of dealing with things. Think of the old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Every discovery was created to fill a need and deal with a problem.
The telephone makes it easier for us to communicate. When it was first developed, people couldn’t see a need for one in every house. Now, many people can’t imagine being without one for even a second. I’m not going to comment on whether cell phones are a good or bad thing. It’s just that the invention of the telephone originally was created to fill a need.
The way we get physically stronger is to exercise. When we lift weights, do yoga, or hike, we’re stressing and stretching our muscles. If we don’t do that, then we lose the ability to get around. In much the same way, we evolve by stretching ourselves. As long as we do the same thing every day, we don’t expand.
About twenty-five years ago, I got involved in a multitude of organizations. I had no personal time and was doing too much. It caused me to go into distress, and my health began to suffer. However, it was also a wondrous time as it helped me overcome personal limitations and expand spiritually. Because I was willing to stretch myself, I reaped enormous benefits.
The problem comes when we get our schedules so packed that we don’t have time for ourselves or things that bring us joy. Even a plant needs space to be able to grow and expand its roots. When we don’t have enough breathing room to process what’s going on in our lives, then we go into a distressed mode because we’re simply running from crisis to crisis. Even when we exercise, we have to let our bodies rest and recuperate from their workout to actually build muscle tissue.
Beginning to feel overwhelmed, getting sick, and feeling exhausted is a good signal it’s time to pull back. When I found I was over involved, I eliminated several of the activities I’d been involved in. Later on, I rejoined a couple of groups, but made sure I could say “no” if I began to feel overwhelmed again.
When we’re beginning to feel stagnant, bored or stuck, then it may be a sign for us to try a new path and step out of our comfort zone. During that stressful period of my life, some of my activities included holding responsible positions in a couple of community organizations, acting in theater productions, and helping with all aspects of publicity for the theater company. All of it was new to me. But by stretching myself, it gave me access to new internal resources, confidence in my abilities and broke through internal blocks.
Learning to create a balance between stretching ourselves, and distressing ourselves, takes some practice. Feeling inundated, and like we don’t have time to breathe may mean it’s time to take a break and assess what’s going on in our lives. However, if we’re too comfortable and in a rut, it might be a good time to take a class or get involved in some new interest. There is a happy medium between standing still and racing out of control. Personal development and spiritual evolution comes from slightly stressing and stretching ourselves and expanding into something new.
I take stock internally to assess whether I need my life to slow down or to reach out for more stimulation. The Universe guides me in what to do about this. If I need to reduce my stress, I am Divinely inspired in how to do so. If I need to stretch myself more, I am directed to the Divine Right activities. I learn how to balance my life, so that I release old limitations and expand into living life fully. All that I need is provided.
As a speaker, personal and professional development coach and hypnotherapist, Linda-Ann Stewart empowers business and professional women who are stuck, immobilized or overwhelmed get focused, prioritize and break through so they reduce stress and generate more business. If you’d like some help to reach your goals, email her at LAS@Linda-AnnStewart.com with “Complimentary Consultation” in the subject line.