I often start my stress management presentations with this phrase:
“Stress is actually our friend”.
Now let me tell you, lots of people are thrown by that comment. I see plenty of rolled eyes and raised eyebrows, usually mixed with an acerbic “Hmph! Yeah, right”. Actually, I’m quite surprised I haven’t been told to “eff off” yet. Lucky we live in a civilised society!
But it’s true. Stress, in its purest evolutionary form, actually IS our friend.
Take the well-worn “cavewoman vs sabre tooth tiger” analogy. We need to be “stressed” when that big cat pounces on us, because we need the enormous physiological boost the “fight or flight response” provides. We need the blood to drain from our non-essential organs, such as our uterus or large intestine, and flood our heart and leg muscles, to help us run like the clappers across the savannah and make our escape!
Because that’s what the stress response is designed for – to help our body physiologically prepare for those times we need to fight or flight.
So it translates over into modern life too – the stress response works wonders when we’re caught in an exceptional circumstance. Think everyday Mums somehow lifting a crashed car single-handedly to free their trapped child, or that mad dash you made to the Sass and Bide section of Myer during last years Boxing Day sale. In these situations we don’t want to be kept wanting, we NEED the physical boost of the stress response in this moment.
So hell yeah, stress is totally our friend.
But the stress response is only our friend as long as we’re its friend. And as with most friends, it doesn’t like being taken advantage of.
Sure, it’s more than happy to help out every now and then. But once you start demanding too much of it, say relying on it to meet every deadline, run for every bus, and get you to 13 different extracurricular activities for your kids on time, every single week – it starts to get fed up.
Eventually you wear out your stress-friend’s reserves, and the time will come when she’s simply not there for you anymore. That’s it. You’ve depleted her and you’re on your own honey!
That’s what’s known as adrenal fatigue. And that’s no fun. Just ask anyone who’s been there.
So in summary, no, you probably don’t want stress as your BFF.
But she makes a damn fine “In Case of Emergency” contact – use her only when you must!
Until next time,
Make friends with stress and live your best life!