Stress is what gets you out of bed in the morning, reading this blog, and Christmas morning. Stress is an often misunderstood term. Stress is any stimulus or change in your life that creates or requires a change or reaction. According to the classic stress inventory, marriage is more stressful than being fired, the death of a close friend, or foreclosure. Even positive events create Eustress, a feeling of fulfillment, while less desirable events can create Distress.
The stoic philosopher Epictetus reminded us that “what upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about the things.” Every person has a somewhat different reaction to the same event. Some will find family gatherings to cause distress, while others will find that the effort required to prepare and travel for such events are well worth the renewal received. I have a very dear friend who in one week experienced her husband leaving her, being fired from her job, and being diagnosed with breast cancer; she considered it an opportunity for a new start and to refocus on herself.
What my friend knows is that stress is the essence of growth. Just like weight training, we require resistance to grow. Those who have trained for a marathon understand that training is stressing yourself on a regular basis, pushing yourself beyond your normal limits and allowing yourself to recover, increasing your capacity. Those who are the most practiced at dealing with things and have the most to deal with are the most capable. Have you ever heard the phrase if you want something done give it to someone who is busy? It is easier to add in one more unplanned store to your list of errands than to get out of the house to go to that one place if you were not intending on leaving home. It is also important to remember that we are most at risk of death within the first six months of retirement; we need stress to survive!