There’s some popular advice that is tossed about online, in doctor’s offices, among friends and family that is causing more harm than good.
Here’s what the so-called experts are telling you:
You need to learn to cope with stress.
It’s one of those things that gets under my skin.
Yes, I know it’s well-intentioned, but it’s throwing off almost everyone I speak with.
Because coping with stress doesn’t solve the problem!
Conquering stress solves the problem.
It’s time you became aware of an important distinction: the difference between coping with stress and conquering stress. Coping with stress is like putting on a band-aid. Just because you don't see the wound, doesn't mean the wound isn't there. Conquering stress is about healing that wound. Let's bring this example a bit closer to home.
Coping with a stressful situation could look like working out at the gym, punching a pillow, taking a holiday, or doing anything to "get your mind off it". The problem with coping is that when you're done working out, when all the pillows have been punched, when the holiday is over, when you have to put your mind back to the task at hand, the stressful situation is still there - maybe even worse!
Conquering stress is different. Conquering stress involves self-growth, increased resilience, and building inner strength such that the situation no longer produces crippling negative emotions.
In addition, where the two differ further is in where the focus is put in order to solve the problem. In coping with stress, we look to the outside world to change so that we can be more comfortable. In conquering stress, we look within, to build our inner strength.
In coping with stress, we say things like, "This challenge is making me stressed. I need to get away from it, or it needs to be nicer to me." There are two problems with this. The first is that we are putting the blame on the challenge for how we feel, when the truth of the matter is that I alone am responsible for how I feel, and you alone are responsible for how you feel. Nothing and no one can reach inside us and make us feel stressed. Secondly, if we blame the challenge, then we need the challenge to change in order to feel better. In that way, we become disempowered and slaves to our challenges. In the real world, we cannot expect that hurdles be lowered so that we can jump them. No, we must become better jumpers!
To conquer stress, we must turn within and strengthen ourselves. We must build resilience so that we can handle whatever challenges come our way. This is a skill that must be practiced and developed just like any other life skill, in preparation for life's challenges in work, relationships, and family.
Building resilience is just like building muscle. But instead of physical muscle, imagine we are building emotional muscle. We are becoming better at staying calm, at ease, joyful, content, and engaged. That is how we build emotional muscle and resilience. We take on bigger and bigger challenges - just like we would lift heavier and heavier weights - and we maintain our composure.
We lose resilience or emotional muscle in the same way we lose physical muscle - lack of use. The more we feel anxious, overwhelmed, angry, or fearful, the less we feel calm and content, at ease and engaged, the more we lose resilience. The easier it is for challenges to bowl us over.
You cannot control so many of the situations in your life. But you can control your own emotions. In regulating your own emotions, feeling less negative emotions and feeling more positive emotions, you will build resilience. This is not positive thinking. Thinking doesn't build resilience. Feeling does. As you build resilience you will experience much less stress and much more fulfilment because you are embracing those challenges to continually become a better version of yourself.
Here's to Conquering Stress,
The Stress Experts
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Practical Strategies to Deal with Daily Stressors
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