Stress has gotten a lot of bad press lately, and the coverage is a little unfair. Let’s take a deep breath and give stress a break for once. Moreover, let’s thank it for doing its job.
Many of us demonize stress because we do not understand what it is: a physiological response. Nothing more, nothing less.
Stress is a message from our mind and body that we have moved outside of our comfort zone and are resisting this unfamiliar reality. The combination of effects that we experience is our entire system’s way of telling us that we are not equipped to handle our surroundings. Good. Now we know that it is time to change our relationship to what is happening and to expand.
Facing new situations and stretching ourselves past our limitations can be uncomfortable and even scary. That’s OK. Our edge is the place where we learn, adapt and grow. Just how muscles strengthen when we push them to their limits in the gym and hamstrings lengthen when we stretch them in yoga class, we expand when we learn how to take on challenge. We want to live at our edge – the point where life is neither too much nor too little.
What would your life look like if instead of blaming stress for your problems, you thanked it for bringing them to your attention and made changes based on this enhanced awareness? Try this to find out:
1) Identify your stress response: Are you nervous? Uncomfortable? Judgmental? Do you feel tension in your shoulders? Does your breathing become constricted? How do your body and mind tell you that you have moved outside of your comfort zone?
2) Identify what your stress response is trying to tell you: Why do you feel nervous, uncomfortable or judgmental? Are you creating or exacerbating your response by resisting what is happening in the moment? Can you accept what is transpiring instead?
3) Take action: Now that you know that you are stressed and why you are stressed, what are YOU going to do about it? You get to choose: Will you keep complaining about it and keep blaming others for it? Or, will you take ownership for your life and change?
4) Thank your stress response: Be grateful that it alerted you to your resistance. Be grateful that it offered you the opportunity to change and to grow.
The beauty of stress is that it forces us to adapt and to figure out new ways to take on more challenge with less effort. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone so you can examine your responses to life. Where can you resist less what life is throwing at you and embrace more the invitations it is offering you to evolve?
Life becomes easier when you view stress as your ally, not as your enemy. As you learn how to confront your fears and to adapt to everything that enters your path, you can extend rather than resist your edge. As you expand, so will your life.
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Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.