Stress – Avoid It, Reduce It, Manage It, or … Redefine It?

When most people talk about avoiding stress what they really mean is that they want to cut down on negative impacts on their life and focus on the positive in order to live a calmer, more positive, meaningful life.  They don’t really want to avoid stress they just want to have more positive reactions to the stress factors in their life. In life, stress isn’t something that can realistically be avoided; changing our reactions to things in life in order to avoiding feeling stress.  We can make the best of something (whether it be bad or good stress) instead of getting ‘stressed-out’ over it; choosing our reaction.I hear people talk about “avoiding stress,” and I wonder if they know what they really mean by that. I think what they mean is that they want to cut down on the negative stressors and the negative energy in their lives, increase the positive energy, and live a calmer, more peaceful life.

But what they want is not to “avoid stress.” What they want, really, is to react less to negative stressors and have a more positive response to their lives. The want to experience no distress.

Avoiding stress is not a practical solution, really, because stress is not something that is. Nor is stress reduction.

Stress is something that happens. Stress is our reaction to stimuli. How could we possibly avoid or manage random things that happen?

Instead, we have to accomplish two things:

We need to redefine stress as good – eustress, or bad – distress.

We need to change our reactions in order to avoid feeling stress.

This is not stress avoidance, stress reduction, or stress management. Stress Design is a more accurate term. The most precise way I can describe it is to insert a pause between stimulus and response. In other words, to choose our response. ACT instead of RE-ACT.

This means we can get excited (positive stress) or be positively stimulated to reach a deadline (positive stress), but we can choose how we feel. We can make the best of something instead of getting “stressed out” over it.

It’s not so much avoiding stress as choosing our reaction. And that really is to our advantage, because choosing how we react is much easier than trying to change the world.

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