We all have problems. We all have stress and anxiety at times. We all experience fear.
While this are just part of a system that also includes pleasure, happiness, relaxation, fulfillment, etc. we all tend to dwell on the negative emotions from time to time.
When I was younger I took the approach that we should do everything possible to eliminate stress in life. I had read through a significant number of research studies looking at stress and how damaging it could be to our health.
Now when I hear the song Island Boy by Kenny Chesney and hear him sing, “Living his life where stress is the enemy”, I think about myself when I was younger and how I took that same attitude towards stress.
Therefore, I concluded, we have to get away from stressful situations. While this made sense to me, I couldn’t quite shake the feelings of anxiety and stress.
No matter how I tried to escape, it just kept following me. I just wanted a relaxed, happy, life but instead my stress and anxiety kept creeping up higher and higher.
Finally I got to a point where I felt that I wasn’t going to get away from the stress, so I might as well do the things in life that I wanted to do. I went forward despite the stress and stopped letting it dictate my next steps.
First, I started a business. While this can be an incredibly stressful time (and at times it was) it was also very freeing. For the first time in my life I started to chart my own course through life based on internal feelings and a desire to do something different.
I started to realize that by taking control of myself the stress was reduced.
Around this time in my life I also realized that my approach to exercise was flawed. I didn’t want the stress of having to exercise and push my body physically so I didn’t exercise at all.
Once I started to develop the habit of exercise, I started to further reduce my anxiety and stress. I realized that this helped me to stay relaxed and happy and even the act of exercising was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be.
It was around this time that I started to realize that I couldn’t just run and hide from stress and anxiety. These are natural emotions for all humans. I couldn’t just escape, I had to face the stressor head on.
But initially my approach was the exact opposite. Instead of facing a stressor, I would run and hide from it. This kept the power with the stressor instead of with me. Facing it, even if the process of doing that was difficult, gave me more power afterwards.
If you find yourself with anxiety and stress and feel a pull towards running and hiding, stop yourself. If it is extreme stress and anxiety, seek professional help. Otherwise, learn to start facing the stressors head on.
You can start to change your reaction to stress instead of hoping to eliminate stress altogether by avoiding it. Canadian scientist Hans Selye says, “Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
In other words, do we let the stress control us and gain power or do we face the stress in order to make necessary adjustments to our life in order to move forward?
If we can’t control the stressor but have control over our reaction, then this becomes a much better prescription for dealing with life’s stress and anxiety than simply running and hiding.
Seyle echoes that sentiment when he says, “Man should not try to avoid stress any more than he would shun food, love or exercise.”