Living with stress, I’m convinced, is a good thing — the only people who have no stress are dead.
Stress can be hard on you, and some types of stress are much harder than others. But, as a series of articles in the Feb. 23 Newsweek magazine illustrates, the downside is often overblown and the upside is under-appreciated.
Anything that makes your heart race causes stress, whether it’s bad economic news, a romantic invitation, a long day’s work, or a two-mile jog. Stress associated with tragedy can be overwhelming and requires special care, but stress associated with everyday life is, well, a part of everyday life.
Those who think life should be stress free and think of it as an unwelcome intrusion are more likely to consider themselves victimized and “stressed out,” while those who regard stress as a natural part of life tend to handle their stress with greater facility.
Looking back, it’s not hard to see how successful coping with stress in the past can prepare us for the stressors we face today. Two-a-day practices and the emotional see-saw of competing in high school football brought me a lot more stress than making good grades in physics or Latin, but the experience was an important cog in both my physical and psychological development.
The childhood heartbreaks we experience over broken toys and the adolescent wounds we receive from bumbling relationships help to prepare us for life as adults, when the stakes are higher and the wounds are deeper.
I was feeling a little stressed before a meeting last week with some friends who are pastors. After spending a few hours being reminded of what their daily life is like, my burdens seemed almost inconsequential.
Stress itself is not inherently negative — it’s when we dwell on our stressors and let them dominate our thinking that we empower stress to steal our joy. It’s hard to surpass the advice of the master teacher, who said “So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34, NET).
And today is where we live.