The Real Deal About Stress

Stress is a hot topic these days. Headlines abound about how to avoid, minimize or manage stress.

“Why stress makes us do stupid things”

“Top tips on how to manage work stress”

“Navigating holiday stress one day at a time”

Here’s the thing: stress is unavoidable.

There is no such thing as a stress-free life. And, in her book, The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal talks about the benefits of certain types of stress and why we wouldn’t want to get rid of it altogether.

Despite this, the reality is: stress can wreak havoc on our lives and our health if we let it run amuck.

The important nuance here is that it’s mainly chronic stress, not acute stress, that causes health problems...and as a result, infertility problems.

Let’s look at an analogy. In your bank account, there is a monetary reserve. Some weeks, you add to it (savings). Other weeks, you deduct from it (spending). In order to keep a positive balance, you have to do more saving than spending; otherwise, you will deplete your bank account to zero (or even negative).

The same is true of your stress account. Some weeks, you add to it (relaxing and rejuvenating). Other weeks, you deduct from it (stressing and complaining). In order to keep a positive balance, you have to do more relaxing and rejuvenating than stressing and complaining. It’s all about keeping a positive balance.

So, how do you keep a positive balance in your account?

  1. Get rid of chronic stressors! This may include your commute to work, an underlying infection, an exercise routine you hate or even a draining relationship. Over time, anything that depletes your energy more than it elevates your energy should be eliminated.

  2. Recognize that stress is a choice. As I mentioned above, it’s not about avoiding stress; it’s about managing your perceptions of and reactions to it. If there are certain things that you can’t change about your life (#1 above), reframe them or upgrade them. For example, if you are stressed about a big project at work, focus on how much of a badass you are for being given this opportunity and how appreciative you are. If you are stressed about your morning commute, but you can’t eliminate it right now, upgrade it with an amazing playlist, uplifting podcast or daily phone call to your favorite friend.

  3. Don’t stress about being stressed! With the new focus on mindfulness and meditation practices, a lot of my clients are stressing themselves out about having so much stress in their lives. Stress is natural and normal...and at the risk of repeating myself again, unavoidable. It’s okay to be stressed; just don’t make it your default mode and stay stuck there.

  4. Play more. Yes, if your mind went there, it could be sex. But, I was talking more broadly. Infuse your life with fun. Real, old-fashioned kind of fun - sing, dance, laugh, imagine. Go on adventures. Create something new. The possibilities are endless. No holds barred, get some freakin’ fun in your life.

If you change your relationship to stress, you will change your life. Stop running away from it. Acknowledge it, accept it and work with it rather than against it. You’ve got this!