Looking for Stress

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When did you last go looking for stress?





The essence of modern stress is change!

Perhaps you have noticed life is stressful. Stress comes at us from all directions. It comes from the big and small events as well as the positive and negative events of life. Sometimes life seems so stressful that people will claim they would like to learn how to have no stress, at least, for a short while. They want to be "stress free." This is unfortunate because we have a word that is used to describe people who have no stress. The word is "dead." Most people do not want to be this relaxed. Life is inherently stressful, and we are always confronting potential stressors - those events that can cause stress. As long as you are alive, stress will not be avoided.

Without some stress life would be boring. Sometimes when we do not have enough stress we intentionally seek some. Can you remember what you were doing the last time you went looking for stress on purpose? A certain amount of stress creates motivation and challenge. If you have ever gone snow skiing, white water rafting, or to an amusement park on purpose to ride the roller coaster, then you have been seeking stress. During these activities your body will be showing all the physiological indicators of stress. However, if we ask what you are doing, you will probably reply that you are, "Having fun." Since you have voluntarily entered the situation, you feel in control of it. You have also redefined what it means to you. It is exciting, fun, and a challenge. If someone was making you do these things against your will then you might be terrified. These same activities would create significant distress for you.

So we can see that stress comes in two flavors. There is positive stress, which is called eustress, and negative stress, which is distress. Positive stress is what turns you on, and distress is what wears you out. Positive stress involves such changes as getting married, having a baby, or accepting a promotion that requires you to relocate. With positive stress as we adapt and adjust we feel competent, challenged, and satisfied with our ability to cope. While you could theoretically have so many good things, so much eustress, happen to you that you became stressed-out, most of us do not complain about the "positive stress."

Negative stress, distress, however, is another matter. We do not like it and try to avoid it. This cannot be done, however, because the essence of modern stress comes from change, and change cannot be avoided. Change itself is not the problem. Change has always been with us. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, taught that "The only thing that is constant is change." He also said that, "You cannot step into the same river twice." Everything is moving and flowing. What has happened is that "change" has changed. It has become more rapid. Events will not slow down again. We are living in what we will soon look back on as, "the good old days" when things were slow. As the rate of change increases so does the level of distress.



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