When you think of stress, you probably automatically think of the negative things in your life that may weigh you down and cause you to feel burned out and overwhelmed. And if you think this way, you are right, but only partially.
Recently, there has been a huge focus on stress and stress-related illnesses and even I have been a part of the movement, but I realized that most of us have varying definitions of stress. And most of the variations focus on stress as a negative thing and don’t fully address what stress is.
Our focus on only the negative doesn’t complete the story and causes us to feel as if we are or should be considered “victims” to stress and its repercussions. So instead of just guessing or assuming that we know what stress is, let us get a true definition of it to take with us on our journey to learn how to best navigate stress.
One of the more well-rounded definitions of stress that I have encountered comes from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which states:
“Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter changes in life. ” Take a notice of how this definition does not say that stress is defined by negative reactions or negative changes in life.
So stress can be both negative and positive? Caused by both negative and positive occurrences in life? What an interesting concept, right?
Consider for a moment, all of the times that demands were put on you, by yourself or others, but you gladly accepted them because you were looking forward to the outcome. This was still stress but you did not readily feel the “adverse” effects because you viewed it as a positive.
Take for instance, going on a much-needed shopping spree for new clothes or finally buying the grill that you’ve been wanting for a big family cookout. Both situations can cause stress but we tend to view these things as positive because of the benefit that we receive from them.
Stress, like people, can come in many different sizes (intensities) and shapes (forms). And most of us are experiencing some form of stress every day. Over the next few weeks, we will go “back to the basics” and reexamine what stress really is and how we view it so that we are better equipped when we navigate through life’s changes.