Let’s talk about all the good things and that bad things it may be. Let’s talk about stress.
Thank you Salt n’ Peppah.
How tired are you of thinking about stress? Hearing about it? Managing it? Eliminating it? Yada yada, blah blah.
One of the most difficult aspects of our modern, technologically driven life is that we tend to believe that everything functions the way our devices do. Binary code. Something is either one thing or it’s the other.
So, the story you’ve probably heard is that stress bad. No stress good.
The truth of the universe in which we are gloriously enmeshed is that it is a both/and place. Stress is both good and bad.
It’s been years since massage school. More than a decade in human years and I haven’t thought about the actual Hans Selye created word of “eustress” since then. But, the concept has been on my mind quite a bit. When I created Nourishing Freedom’s basic aspects of health, I deliberately designated one of them to the “appropriate level of stress” for the individual.
“Eu-” is the prefix used in Science to designate “true or good”. Your cells are eukaryotic because they have a nucleus. So, they’re “true” cells. Sorry, prokaryotes. You’re such posers. (JK! You’re awesome and my mitochondria remembers when we used to chill together in the primordial soup!) With that little tangent, “eustress” is the good stress that we experience.
Whoa. Good stress? Of course. When you get back to the actual understanding that stress is pretty much anything that requires a response from the body, you see that you are constantly experiencing stressors. A drop in temperature is a stressor, having to get out of bed in the morning is a stressor, exercise is a stressor (yeah, I said it!), someone saying your name in a crowd is a stressor, ad infinitum. “Stress” is the conversation, constant and uninterrupted, that you are having with your environment.
For clarity, I hope that you understand that EVERYTHING is your environment. We have tossed the word around so much that with environment we tend to think of trees and dying rivers and little animals that our grandchildren won’t know. Your environment, though, is everything from the shampoo that you use (or don’t…go no ‘poo, go no ‘poo, GO!) to the paint colors that you choose to cover your walls in to that unfortunate bag of Doritos that you scarfed last night at midnight after one too many Big Bang Theory downloads on YouTube. It’s the humming of your refrigerator and the howling of the wind through the pine trees. It is the uncertainty of a moon-less night and the amount of sunlight you bathe in during the day. It’s the feeling of the wool sweater on your skin to the loud neighbors that just can’t seem to get along. Your environment is the people you touch or walk past during your day and the animals that share the park with you on your lunch break. It is the pace at which you run or the sway with which you dance. All of these things are your environment and the dialogue between you and it is so intimate that it really should be called by its 19th century name for talking intently: intercourse.
That conversation, for our purposes, is what stress actually is. If the environment is the call, we are the response. Since we have the capacity (as does every other living thing) to impact its environment) we are the call and the environment is the response. And that communion is stress.
How do you feel about stress now?
Hopefully a little differently. It doesn’t seem to be quite so….nefarious, does it?
Good. Because you know what the MAJOR difference between stress (the bad stuff) and eustress (the good stuff)? Our perception. That’s it.
I will grant you this. The amount of stressors and demands for response that we often have in an average day are inhuman and inhumane. Our bodies DO struggle to keep up with the constancy of the permeating barrage. It does overwhelm. Or, we allow it to.
There is a lovely path to walk with stress when we take a playful approach to it. It’s invigorating to find the right thread of conversation with our environment. As any conversation, it does take two, but all it takes is one person to alter the tone of the conversation, or the topic, and the conversation is now different. You CAN have a screaming match with your environment. Of course, you can. You have that authority. You also accept the responsibility of the fallout of that. Some of them might be chronic exhaustion, horrible digestive pain and issues, hair loss, migraines, body pain. You are also able to speak tenderly with your environment, find mutually beneficial solutions to things. So, this street is particularly congested at 5:30 so I can take the back road. Or I really enjoy the buzz I get from working hard on a project or a couple weeks and the decadence that comes with doing nothing for a whole week.
You may find that some amazing solutions can be found when you stop arguing with your environment. When you stop and listen, you may hear some things you didn’t even know.