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Feeling Stressed?


March 12, 2024

Much of what Susan David teaches involves our putting on our curiousity hat and stepping back to look at our situation with that curiosity.

From Susan David:

The journey toward a stress-free existence is nothing short of a cultural obsession. We sign up for yoga classes and download meditation apps to help us escape stress, complaining to our friends about our looming deadlines and lack of sleep. We seek out techniques to help us eliminate stress from our lives and read articles about how it’s going to send us to an early grave.

Since prolonged, excessive stress can impact us, the need to destress is easy to understand. Yet a core aspect of living a happy, fulfilling life involves renegotiating our relationship to stress rather than attempting to eliminate it. In fact, attempting to banish stress can actually have the opposite effect, increasing stress rather than decreasing it. This is especially true if we start to stress out about all the stress in our lives! It’s healthier to recognize the power—and inevitability—of stress and ride the wave, acknowledging its challenges and using it to propel us forward.

Stress actually evolved as a useful behavioral response. When we perceive a threat, stress allows us to run faster and see and think more clearly—all of which helped our early ancestors survive. Abolishing stress would mean getting rid of a deep part of human biology and one of our most valuable tools. Here are some strategies we can use to build a healthier relationship with our stress:

Get curious. What is this stress trying to tell me about my needs? Take values-based action. What actions can I take to have my needs met? The illustration portrays a character being afraid of a wave at first, then learning to float on it and surf.

Change your perspective: Recognize that stress can be a sign that you are learning and growing. As we step into the discomfort of new things, we are bound to feel the stress of that stretch. Love yourself through that learning. When that burst of anxiety hits you right before a big presentation, it can either send you into a tailspin or it can sharpen your focus. Embrace evolutionary reality rather than fighting it.

Unhook: When you find yourself saying “I am stressed” rather than “I feel stressed,” there’s a good chance the feeling has you hooked. You’ve come to identify so strongly with your stress that it feels like it is defining you. Remind yourself that stress is not who you are. It’s an experience you’re having. Even this slight shift can give you the perspective you need to move forward.

Cultivate curiosity: Why are you feeling stressed? How do you respond to stress? What does your inner dialogue sound like? Which value is the feeling pointing toward? Sometimes your stress will signal a value head-on: you’re stressed about the project because you care about your client and want to do good work. Sometimes, it’s more subtle, like a nagging tug at your heart suggesting that you’re ready for a life-change. When we have the courage to explore the experience of stress, we can begin to recognize patterns and adjust our behavior.

Rather than battling stress, consider how you can use it to your advantage. It heightens your senses and prepares you for big moments, giving you the boost you need to focus, succeed, and thrive.

Wishing you well.

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