Structured Guided Stress

Friday, June 7, 2024, at 10:45:17 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Stress is not always a bad thing. It can sometimes be used as a tool to help us address things. We can use our stress to guide us forward. Too much stress can really drag you down, but the right amount of stress, applied in the right way for the right reasons, can stimulate growth.

Sometimes, when life feels like it is well under control, it might be worthwhile to add a little bit of constructive stress. You can structure it so that it is controlled and not overwhelming. For some people, a blank page is very upsetting, and for others, it is an invitation to write. In one case, the blank page might be stress-inducing, and in the other, not at all. Much of this depends on context. 

Many things are stress-inducing, which, once you have done a large number of times, are no longer stressful or do not necessarily need to continue to be stressful. For example, I have a television program on a local cable station, and the first time I was on camera, I was very nervous and not quite sure what to do with myself. I did not know whether to stand or sit or walk around or where to put my hands. But now that I have done this four times, it is a lot easier. I deliberately subjected myself to structured, guided stress in order to overcome it.

On the other hand, there are still many situations where I experience stage fright, but it is somewhat context and activity-dependent. For example, I can give a talk to 1000 people with no concern at all, but getting up and singing in front of six people still makes me nervous. Rather than run away from this, I assume that if I do it many more times, I will eventually be comfortable. This is an example of some structured, guided stress.

One very efficient way to benefit from stress is to habituate addressing it by performing the behavior that makes you nervous. Many people assume that stress is a killer, and yes, it can be, but it can also be developmental and lift you to a higher level of capability. If you were a person who is afraid to swim and forced yourself to go swimming several days a week for a few months, there’s a good chance that you would lose that fear.

You might want to build into your schedule some deliberate stressors that you believe you can overcome over time and then make it your business to do just that. The real issue here is whether or not you believe that stress can be deleterious to your health or you believe that it can be constructive, and just like dirt irritating a clam can create a pearl, you can deliberately stress yourself and push yourself into developmental situations.

The impact of stress is essentially a function of what you believe.