Stress Management and Mastery: Breakdown or Breakthrough?

Q: "My career, though very very stressful, is one that I thoroughly enjoy and do not want to change. Because I'm under so much stress, my counselor has recommended that I eliminate all stress from my life. This doesn't seem to make sense to me, especially since I like what I do so much. Should I quit my job, or is there something else I can do?"

I think your counselor is wrong. I'm sure they mean well, they just don't understand some key distinctions about stress.

The reason for that rather bold statement is that unless you are in imminent danger of a heart attack, stroke or some other equally severe catastrophe, there is no reason to eliminate all the stress from your life. The only people I know who are completely stress free can be found a few blocks down the street from my office - in the cemetery!

Not only is it not really possible to eliminate all the stress from your life, it's not very healthy as well.

What!?! are you saying stress can be healthy?!

Well, in a word, yes.

Before you think I'm completely nuts, consider what some scientists have found. Who knows where they get these ideas, but apparently some researchers found a way for a butterfly to get out of a cocoon without having to struggle. Here's the interesting part for our approach to stress. As they further studied the butterflies, they found that the ones that did not have to struggle out of their cocoons were not as healthy, not as brightly colored, and did not live as long as the butterflies that had to go through some struggles.

The meaning for us is clear: the right amount of struggle and stress can be a good thing.

When it comes to successfully dealing with stress and struggle, you can have only one of two results: a breakdown or a breakthrough. Let's take a closer look at each of these two options.

How to Have a Breakdown

Obsess on the stress in your life. Think about nothing else.

Even though you are the only invited guest, have a continuing "pity party."

Talk constantly about the stress you feel, especially to those that agree completely with you.

Get little or no exercise. After all, with all this stress, you just don't have time.

Ask lousy questions, such as "Why does this always happen to me?", "Why don't other people have as much stress as me?", etc. etc.

Take a "dead roach approach." You know, flat on your back, just letting the stress happen to you.

Follow these directions: Say to yourself "I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do this." Rinse. Repeat.

Cut down on your sleep and rest. Remember, you just don't have time.

Focus on everything that is wrong in your life.

Put off all enjoyment until the stress has passed. Remember, you don't have time.

Pray that life gets easier.

Isolate yourself. Believe you have to do it all your self.

Carry the burden alone.

Believe you have absolutely no choice in the matter.

How to Have a Breakthrough

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