Posted By Aaron Marcelli on May 22, 2013
What would you say is your current level of stress? If you say ‘high’ I’m not surprised. I recently read most Americans’ stress level is more than twice what’s considered safe for human health. There has been a lot of activity in the lives of my wife and I lately that has caused me to do some reflection on the idea of stress. As a result I have developed what I believe will be a highly unpopular conclusion.
As simplistic as it may sound, I believe dealing with stress is as easy as making the choice not to get stressed. Stress is a choice. When comparing our culture to others there is no doubt that we Americans feel more stress than other societies. This means stress is not a natural or normal human response and we do not have to be controlled by it.
The negative effects of stress are well documented. Stress destructively impacts how we treat people, including ourselves. Many illnesses and disorders we deal with today are brought on or enhanced by stress and anxiety. We are more likely to lash out at those we love or seclude ourselves from them because of the stress we are feeling from areas of life that don’t even involve them.
Stress is also completely unproductive and useless. While being stressed, we can simultaneously feel other things that are productive. These other feelings (such as rush in a time crunch, grief over the loss of a loved one, urgency to perform, and pressure of important situations) may cause stress but they are not stress. Allowing them to push you to the point of stress is going too far. Feeling those other things is natural and can be productive in moving us forward. But there is nothing beneficial, important, or healthy about stress. As a matter of fact, stress is counter-productive because it actually distracts us from accomplishing the seemingly overwhelming task that is causing us stress in the first place.
Stress has even become glorified in our society. We associate it with business, productivity, importance, and responsibility. I once heard someone practically bragging about their stress (which is odd since they are bragging about sin) because it provided them an air of importance. This seemed silly to me but is a great example of the social norm stress has become in our lives. We assume if you’re easy-going and content your life must be easy. To me, the two are not related.
Negative and trying situations happen to all of us. You’re not unique if your job requires a lot of you. What can make you unique, though, is choosing not to be bogged down by stress and its symptoms hurtful to your soul.
I’m practicing a new habit that whenever I feel stress coming on I mentally step back, take some deep breathes and talk myself through it. Rather than fret, cramp my mind of solid judgment, and lash out at those around me, I choose not to get stressed. Sometimes this means acknowledging there’s nothing I can do about the situation and sometimes it means I need to get to work right away on the daunting task ahead. But I am not a slave to stress. Neither are you.
When you start to feel stress during the next week, try simply choosing not to be stressed. I think you will be surprised at your strength over the feeling. Let me know how it goes!