Stress itself is neither positive nor negative. It is simply energy under force. It is how we use it that makes it limiting or empowering. When we are able to use stress to our benefit it motivates us to achieve our goals and outcomes. It gets our adrenaline flowing, keeps our energy high and helps us to keep focused. It engenders our sense of passion for what we are doing and provides the drive we need to achieve. Without stress we can find it difficult to get going and may leave things to the last moment so the pressure to meet the deadline forces our performance.
When stress becomes limiting it impedes our energy flow and causes a wide range of mental, physical and emotional consequences. Yet despite all that is known about stress we often maintain “it could never happen to me” and refuse, either consciously or unconsciously, to recognise or accept the symptoms. We don’t hear others when they suggest we might be suffering from stress and can feel there’s something shameful or inadequate about admitting we are no longer able to perform as well as we did. We may believe in today’s climate that a level of stress is only to be expected and there is little we can do about it. It may even be that we get some sort of strange satisfaction from feeling we’re the only person around here who holds things together and gets things done and that the stress we’re under is a worthwhile price to pay.
Even if we are prepared to acknowledge that stress is causing us a problem, the strategies we use to deal with it are often not the most effective because they are not based on an accurate diagnosis of its the source: Is our stress arising from our environment for example, or because we lack the appropriate skills and capabilities to do something? Are negative beliefs about what we are trying to achieve getting in the way? Does the issue conflict with our image of our self, our self esteem, our self-identity? Are we finding it difficult to see how what we are trying to achieve contributes to our vision (for life, for our business) or is our stress coming in some way from our behaviour or actions? Is it something we are somehow generating ourselves?
Unless we fully understand the causes of our stress we’re likely to restrict our actions to dealing only with its symptoms and, whilst there is no denying this can be of benefit, it misses the point. For just as we would want to get to the root cause of a problem, for example, with a product or a customer in order to find the best solution, why wouldn’t we do the same with our own sense of well being and health?