The Mis-Understanding of Stress

A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner. – English proverb

Stress gets a bad rap these days.

It’s mis-understood and thus, vilified, and, also, in a sense, glorified.

Article after article, study after study, TV segment after TV segment and book after book talks about how terrible stress is and the terrible impact it has on productivity and happiness and families and health and . . . .

And they’re right. Mostly.

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I want to offer a distinction. A new way of thinking about stress. A way that lets us understand – and use – stress better, to our advantage.

There is dis-stress and eu-stress.

One breaks us down, one builds us up.

The former is toxic and detrimental and the latter is useful and beneficial.

When we’re dis-stressed our sympathetic nervous system is activated and powerful hormones and neuro-transmitters are released in our bodies, to varying degrees. Think: the fight-flight/freeze response and the toll (that kind of) “stress” takes on our bodies.

Then there’s eu-stress, when muscles, neural patterns and mental barriers, thoughts and beliefs, are broken down, forged anew and allowed to heal and grow stronger. Think vigorous exercise, or meditation/gratitude/goal-setting/belief-challenging practices.

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Dis-Stress breaks us down and leaves us weak and toxic. Eu-Stress breaks us down in ways that allow us to come back stronger and wiser.

Know the difference and you can minimize the former and make the most of the latter.

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