Strangely enough, yes it can. Stress gets a bad wrap in the press but there is such a thing as helpful stress. Anyone who has suffered an extended period of boredom will fully relate to how the lack of any expectations or pressures can leave you feeling listless and unmotivated. A dose of healthy stress can reconnect people with feeling truly alive, particularly when it involves learning and stretching to newer levels of competency in areas that a deeply aligned to what has value, purpose and meaning. The question then is, how do you know when your experiencing healthy or unhealthy stress? There’s no point tossing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.
Stress worth keeping… (the healthy one)
If what’s causing you ‘stress’ has you feel:
- energised, more alive and lighter,
- a sense of contribution and connection,
- challenged but within reasonable limits,
- able to put it down, on hold or stop it, comfortably, when needed and
- able to bounce out of bed each day,
then you’re on a winner. This is healthy stress. If you have time and you’ve been feeling stressed, just do a quick run through with this checklist now to see if the thing that causes you stress meets this criteria. If it does, keep going and find a way to manage it by eliminating the other unhealthy stressors.
Stress worth tossing aside…
There is another type of stress that leaves people feeling depleted, irritable, often overwhelmed and is the precursor to in-numerous health complaints. It’s imperative to know how to recognise this one, grab it early and toss it in the bin, if at all possible.
Unhealthy stress is often caused by falling prey to someone else’s expectations. This can happen when people feel the need to compete or compare themselves with others. It’s so easy to get caught up in doing more, needing more, trying to be the same as everyone else and then ending up wondering where your sanity went.
The only way to beat this one back is to remember: you’re not responsible for keeping other people happy or for meeting their approval. Stop competing and comparing and unhealthy stress will start to disappear.
Maximising stress to your advantage
Once you’ve stopped spending energy on unhealthy stress, it’s time to tweak healthy stress to maximise contentment.
This can be done by choosing activities, roles and work that are aligned with your natural strengths, talent and most importantly, with the things that will matter many years from now.
Stop and reflect:
- What are you naturally good at? Things that are easy for you but may not be for others?
- If you had all the time and money in the world, where would you invest your time?
- If you could only take 5 things to a remote island where you’ll spend the rest of your life, what or who would you take?
Within your answers to these questions lie your deepest talents and strengths, passions and values. Can you now prioritise your tasks, to do lists and roles into alignment with your natural inclinations? The path of natural flow is also the path of greatest contentment for yourself and others.
Once you have a feel for your flow, delegate tasks that fall outside of it to others who have natural strengths in areas you do not. They’ll feel valued and appreciated and your relationships will become more deeply connected through compassion and contribution.