Life is stressful. Nobody can escape stress, but we can become more aware of it. Stress develops in three stages:
1. The alarm reaction
2. The stage of resistance
3. The stage of exhaustion
Everyone goes through these three stages constantly through their lives. Jobs get stressful and push us to the brink of burnout after we try to resist it for too long. Shocking news may devastate you for many months or years.
We tend to never introspect and rather believe “this too shall pass”. It is only through introspection and curiosity that we discover something about ourselves. As discovery is always a matter of viewpoint and the degree we apply.
While life is all about change and is always in flux, one’s ability to remain the same or static might be considered their “staying power”. It is the steadiness of one throughout the adversity in one’s life. It’s not quite resilience or the ability to bounce back, but rather the ability to remain unchanged.
There’s a constant theme that stress kills us. Your mother may constantly remind you to not sweat the little things and to stay strong during tough times. But with time, one may see that it is not the stress that kills us, but rather it is our reaction to it.
Nobody talks about our reaction to stress. They talk about whether one should have more or less stress in their life. Stress is a constant, as complete freedom from it would be death. We should not try to avoid stress in the same way that we should not avoid the many things we know are good for us such as good food, love, and exercise.
Take any stressful event for example. One person may react to the event in such a way that leaves an indelible scar. Perhaps they may develop a chronic illness or anxiety towards a similar stressful event in the future. Another person with a different attitude may react in a different way that leaves a similar mark, but instead builds their character to competently handle a similar stressful event in the future. There are both positive and negative stresses that affect us physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Some stress may require a means to “get it out of our heads”. There are many biological ways to achieve that such as shocking the body with cold water, an electrical shock, or even introducing a fever. Mentally, shaking the feeling may require us to seek the truth about ourselves or the reality we live in.
The biggest obstacle to mastering stress is our mind. The mind has an innate inability to accept the past and go on living in the present. In other words, we behave purely from our perceptions of past stressful events. It is common for many who suffer from a post traumatic condition to be highly susceptible to negative reactions to stress similar to the example above about two people reacting to the same event in different ways.
Having the right attitude can absolutely convert a negative stress into a positive one. The mind has an underutilized power of being able to re-frame things. The inversion principle can be used everywhere you go and is often a play on the paradox of dualities in life. A disease or health challenge may take over your life temporarily only to force you to build character.
Now there are two main ways you can perceive such a challenge. You can allow yourself to play the victim in the sense that woe is me and that pity is deserved for your misfortune. Otherwise, you can see yourself as the hero where you despise pity and see the situation as a challenge or beginning of a long journey.