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Have another helping of stress. Stress can be good for you.

Posted Dec 07 2012 11:45pm

Why you just might need more stress in your diet. DSCN0110

Recently one of my esteemed colleagues wrote a post on the need to avoid stress. I am not sure he is right about that. We have been told so often that we need to avoid stress that a lot of people are avoiding anything that might be stressful and the result is that they are very low in productivity and lower yet in self-esteem.

More stress in your diet just might be what the doctor ordered.

If your doctor tells you that you are now overweight and you need to lose some weight, he does not prescribe reducing the physical stress in your life. He does not tell you to go home, put your feet up and avoid anything that might put a stress load on your system.

What the doctor does suggest is that your exercise put a manageable level of stress on your muscles. As you become stronger you increase the level of stress you place on your muscles. The key here is not reducing or avoiding stress but learning how to manage your stress so that it is a growth opportunity rather than being at a breaking point level.

Clients have told me that their work “stresses them out.” Their conclusion is that they should avoid working to reduce the stress. What they fail to recognize often, is that not working will result in a substantial reduction in income. Losing your house in foreclosure, being homeless or even the task of living the rest of your life on the small amount of income available to welfare recipients is a lot more stressful than learning to not stress yourself out over your work. 

Writes typically get stressed every time they look at a blank page. We call this writers block. You don’t overcome that kind of stress by avoiding the stress of writing and giving up on your dream. You reduce the stress by writing, writing anything to fill up that space and then you edit and revise until hopefully a piece worth reading comes to life. 

Most things in our life do not “stress us out” though we would all like to blame our level of negative emotions on some outside force that is producing “stress.” Most of the time we stress ourselves out by ruminating on the thing we would like to avoid until it grows to gigantic proportions. Casey Truffo described this in one of her webinars as “gnawing on the thing that is eating you.”

Should we by some accident find ourselves without stress one morning, why there are plenty of things we could chose to worry about. Start by worrying that you have forgotten to worry about something important. Get really into fear, fear of losing something, fear of not getting what you want . Create so much stress over what might happen that you are unable to do anything.  

The stress reaction is our body and our minds way of gearing up for a challenging situation. The difficulty here is that so many people can turn up the stress, but don’t know how to turn it back down when the occasion for the stress is over.

Stress hormones are supposed to be temporary events. Some crisis occurs, we need to respond and out body helps out here by pushing out adrenaline and other hormones, we are ready to fight, flee or fight. The problem with humans is that most of us have forgotten how to turn the stress hormones off. Three months later we are still telling anyone who will listen how that incident “stressed us out’ and in the process we are able to relive the stress.  

Have you ever met someone who was highly productive and seems to thrive on stress? Have you wondered what their secret was?

The thing they have found is how to keep the stress external and maintain their responses internally. They have learned to turn stress to their advantage by using that stress to turn their performance up another notch.

The difference between people who use stress to their advantage and those who are defeated by stress is not in the stress. It is in our attitude to the stress.

The secret is to stop running from the stress monster and to turn towards him and kick his tail.

There are dangers in life that we all should avoid. Most of the things that stress us out every day are not those overwhelming life threatening kinds of stress. The worst kinds of stress are those times when we upset ourselves over things that are outside or control.

Learn to control your stress , learn mindfulness , breathing control or embrace radical acceptance but don’t try to avoid stress by running from it. 

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com . Thanks to all who read this blog. 

P. S. Thanks to Les Lucas for the use of his photograph. 


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