W e are a society that is becoming afraid of one of the most important and natural states of developing good physical and mental health – understanding the purpose of and dealing effectively with stress. It’s time to start changing the conversation!
Over the past years, an entire stress-reduction industry has sprung up, teaching us that all stress is bad, confusing necessary everyday acute stress with traumatic injury or chronic stress. We have been told, in advertising, in social discourse, and in schools, that our primary purpose is to avoid what is causing the stress response or to focus primarily on decreasing it. Our society spends countless dollars on stress-reduction wellness products and we are encouraged to chase a belief that happiness means not having any negative emotions.
In reality, while this is good for those who profit from this message, this way of thinking is not healthy for us, mentally or physically. Our lives are not about cocooning, but about embracing uncertainty, addressing everyday challenges and, in the process, learning how to successfully adapt and to become resilient. As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
In the process we have confused the normal and necessary stress response with the phenomenon of anxiety and the Anxiety Disorders. This confusion has led many to think about the normal negative emotions of life as equal to mental disorders. This is not correct. This needs to change.
Let’s start by understanding what the common and necessary stress response is and let’s learn how to use it to help us take charge of our lives!