By Stacie Prada
Stress isn’t inherently bad, but it feels awful when it causes suffering. Stressful moments are usually only upsetting when my go-to skills aren’t cutting it to skip feelings of tension and anxiety. I’m feeling pushed to do more than I can do, I’m feeling pressured to respond more quickly than I’d like, or I’m interacting with someone who is using bullying tactics.
When something triggers stress in me, it feels more empowering to think of it as a chance to flex my resilience skills than to say I’m managing my stress. It subtly shifts my perspective from feeling like a victim needing to suppress my natural responses to being an active participant and even champion in the outcome. Managing stress may not have the same connotations for everyone, but to me it feels like a compromise.
If I think of stress as bad and my body saying I’m failing or bad at dealing with things, it sabotages my ability to get through the moment with self-control and grace. Instead, I’m aiming to notice stress as my body telling me it’s ready to really perform at peak level. It’s alert, energized and capable. It’s ready to shine.
My mantra this week is, “Breathe, focus, and shine.” I say it to myself as I leave home in the morning. I remind myself to take a moment, consider the situation, and choose the best path forward. I’ve been working to remember in stressful moments that I can slow down and behave deliberately. Respond instead of react. Remember I have options, and I am choosing my behavior. I’m not obligated to a specific reaction.
Stress makes everything feel urgent, but that’s exactly when I need to set my own pace. When it’s a person testing my resilience skills, I need to listen more, ask a question, listen again. Slow the tempo of my dialogue and know that listening to a person who is mad doesn’t mean I’m disconnecting or agreeing with them. Let them experience their emotions without feeling obligated to join them on their roller coaster of frustration, anger, or abuse.
In everyday behavior, I can proactively live a life that nurtures my body and builds resilience for navigating stressful moments when they arise. Have fun, live with purpose and know I have value in this world. I can nourish my whole self with good nutrition, movement, self-reflection and connection with others. Network with colleagues, teammates, friends and mentors who can give perspective and suggestions. Connect with people who experience similar life stressors and can share their approach and successes.
I want to react to stress by pausing and asking myself this:
If I was the most skilled person in the world to deal with this, what would I do?
It doesn’t matter if I am the best person in the world to deal with it or not, because I am the one dealing with this. It might mean I just need to take a momentary breath to think it through. I might need to take a longer break and come back to it another time with a fresh mind. Maybe I should contact someone I know who could help me with it. I might literally be the worst person in the world to deal with this, but thinking about what the best person would do will help me figure it out. It can be my time to shine.
*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old. Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/