How to Befriend Stress. Part 3: Choosing the difficult, but more purposeful life
In Part 1 of this series on befriending stress, I described the “fight or flight” response to stressful situations. In Part 2, new approaches and attitudes towards stress were encouraged to recruit our stress response to be on our team, rather than working against it. In Part 3, I will discuss why it is important to not take the easy way out and avoid stressful situations, especially if it stressful situation arises from something that you are passionate about.
In a 2013 study, it was shown that the people who experienced the most stress in their lives actually perceived their lives to be more meaningful than those who experienced less stress. There can be several reasons as to why there is a correlation between the two. One reason may be because they care deeply for the work they are performing. As a result, they will naturally be more concerned and more time and energy will be allocated to these experiences, whether it be work, family, school, relationships, etc. Another reason may be due to the fact that achievement provides great satisfaction for people. The greater the challenges we face, the more stress we will experience, but the more accomplished we feel once we conquer them. Therefore, we should not choose our life experiences based on their stress levels. Instead, we should follow where our passions lead us.
Dr. McGonigal brought up another touching reason to not avoid stress. She mentioned in her Ted Talk the effects of oxytocin on the body as a result of the stress response. When cortisol is released in response to stress, the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin, is released along with it. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter commonly known for its maternal effects but it also plays a role in causing us to experience feelings of empathy and generosity. Consequently, when we experience stress, our bodies are also telling us to connect with our loved ones to seek support. Our bodies understand that stress is a difficult and sometimes unpleasant experience, so they have adapted by utilizing those around us.
As you can see, stress, if viewed with the right mindset, can be a very empowering and uplifting experience. Struggle through the sweaty palms on a first date, racing heart while giving a presentation, or intense fear when you try something new, because in the end, it will be all worth it. Yes, it may feel impossible in the moment, but you will always have people to help you along the way and to celebrate with you once you make it through. If you would like more information, you can visit Lifelineconnections.org or call 360.397.8246 for more information.