Welcome back to #SlowDownSunday! As we wrap up the weekend and move into a new week, I want to use this time to slow down and reflect on what made it onto our radars in the last 7 days.
This week? Lets talk about stress:
A post from the New York Times popped into my newsfeed this morning: In Desperate Pursuit of the Zero-Stress Job.
It got me thinking about how many of our clients (and their treating health professionals) believe that the only job they can succeed in is one without:
- anxiety-provoking situations
- times of stress
I’m not sure that this job exists.
And I’m not sure that a life without stress and anxiety exists either.
I don’t say this to diminish the havoc that stress and anxiety can wreak on a person’s life. And I’m not suggesting that we encourage people to pursue unnecessary stress in their life or work.
But when we set a goal to completely avoid something that is a side effect of being, well, alive, I think we might be creating some problems.
So why are we so afraid of stress?
It makes sense that stress is something we'd rather avoid. Stress sucks. And we've all read the articles and been told by our doctors about the health effects of prolonged stress. Our adrenal glands just weren't built to be on high-alert around the clock.
But stress-free living has a dark-side.
The Yerkes-Dodson Law tells us that people need a baseline level of stress in order to perform effectively. Zero stress doesn't necessarily mean that we'll function better, or that we're able to navigate life more effectively.
In the pursuit of the stress-free life, we also have to say no to the things in life that are innately difficult, yet rewarding and meaningful.
When we talk about a stress-free life, we are also talking about a life that is devoid of human connection.
We are talking about a life with no new experiences or environments, one without opportunities to learn and grow and develop ourselves, to pursue meaning and purpose and the things we really care about.
The stress free life comes at a cost.
This reminds me of something Russ Harris says often in his teachings:
"Don't set goals that a dead person can do better than you."
I don't know about you, but a goal like "avoid being stressed or anxious" is something that a dead person would totally kick my butt at.
So my question to people who feel that their lives, and their choices, are at the mercy of stress and anxiety is this: no one but you can decide your limit. But…
Is there something valuable enough that you could make room for some anxiety and stress in order to have it?
As Rehabilitation Counsellors we are in a unique position to ask this question of our clients. What if we could work with our clients to:
- Minimise unnecessary stress through suitable job choices and accommodations;
- Help people develop the resilience and strategies to effectively manage and respond to the stress that cannot be avoided;
- Identify the things that are worth pursuing as part of a rich and multidimensional life, even if that means stress and anxiety come along for the ride;
- Talk about whether working could help them achieve the things they value, and empower people to do more of what matters.
So what do you think: Is the stress-free life one worth living?
Oh, and one last thing…. what was on your radar this week?