Stop stressing about stress

Have you ever felt stressed because you feel stressed? 

Yep; me too.

It’s kind of sad and hilarious when you think about it. But, from what we’ve been told, stress is really bad for us, right? (Even the “good stress” like getting married or having a baby!)

We’ve also been told that God designed our body’s stress response to work well for primal peoples (who, for example, needed to avoid becoming a tiger’s lunch), but not for today’s people (whose stress-inducing experiences are more along the lines of trying to deliver an important speech without totally flopping). 

Apparently, there’s flimsy scientific basis for these “truths” we’ve come to believe. 

This is good news!

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist you may recognize from her uber-popular TED Talk, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” She also wrote a book called The Upside of Stress.

I’ll summarize the TED Talk and the book for you:

Kelly says we can stop stressin’ about our stress.

She doesn’t advocate for completely ignoring stressors in your life and doing nothing about them. But what she does say is that the effects of stress are dictated by how we view that stress.

In other words, stress doesn’t really hurt you unless you believe that it will hurt you.

On the flip side, embracing stress actually gives you a whole bunch of benefits, some nice perks that help you in that stressful situation—to rise to the occasion and embrace the challenge, to perform better, to strengthen relationships . . . 

This blows my mind a little, in a good way.

And yet, when I think about our God, I’m not so surprised. 

For one, it’s hard to believe God would have created Adam and Eve thousands of years ago with neural “operating systems” that would become obsolete and invaluable to his people as quickly as the latest version of the iPhone.

For another, why wouldn’t God equip us—through our minds and through his strength—to be able to view challenges with a positive mind-set and therefore thrive in the midst of them? Christian neuroscientists agree—God made our brains remarkably resilient and powerful. Your brain is not some helpless robot that processes the world with black-and-white, cut-and-dry reactions. No, we get to decide how we will view the things that go on around us

We see this countless times throughout the Bible, where God’s people chose a shockingly optimistic response to something downright awful. In Philippians chapter 4, for example, Paul says he learned the secret to being content in every situation, through Christ’s strength. His brain wasn’t freaking out that he was hungry and in prison. It certainly could have, but Paul chose a different mind-set. 

So what do we do with this information? Well, let’s not allow our lives to become filled with unnecessary stress and busyness, but for the stuff that’s either unavoidable or worth the stress, let’s embrace it

I’d rather live a life with a little stress than run away from every chance God gives me to glorify him or live life with meaning.

Diana Kerr is a certified professional life coach for go-getter Christian women. For a FREE workbook from Diana related to this blog post, click here to download “3 Lies about Time Christian Women Tell Themselves & 3 Truths That Will Set You Free.”