There was a time in my life when would people ask me how I was doing and the word “stressed” was almost always included in my response.
Whether it was at a working lunch with colleagues or attending a baby shower on the weekend, it was pretty much guaranteed I would communicate that I was busy and important enough to be stressed to anyone who asked.
I have met many women, including some of my coaching clients, who have spent years subscribing to the false reality that being stressed out meant you were a productive contributor in the workplace or at home. If you weren’t booked with a full calendar, checking email on your crackberry or visibly sleep deprived (don’t get me started on the glorification of caffeine that has stemmed from this), then you weren’t part of the elite club of people who were sacrificing their health and happiness to be seen as hardworking by being stretched thin.
The word “stress" comes from the old latin term to draw tight. When I read that, I picture a piece of string being pulled so tight that smaller fragments start to snap and fray away from the center point. That string is your mind and body, and it’s not worth coming apart for the sake of looking important.
The reality is, most people are consistently stressed out. It has become a default state for humans.
But our bodies aren’t meant to experience stress very often.
Stress is a method your body uses to keep you alive. When you are stressed, you body goes into fight or flight mode. Your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, your heart-rate quickens and your body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol so you can get away from the incoming sabertooth tiger as fast as possible.
But our brains cannot tell the difference between a tiger attack and an email from our boss.
So, when you are constantly putting your body into a state of stress, it goes into shut down mode.
- You don’t digest food properly
- You build up and store more body fat
- Blood flow moves away from your organs, weakening the immune system
- Your sex drive decreases
- Your muscles tighten, leading to pain like headaches and back pain.
- You suffer from insomnia and depression because your hormones aren’t able to come back into a relaxed, resting state
I don’t know about you, but nothing on that lists seems like it’s worth the positive perception of other stressed out people. Not when you're broken out in acne, gassy and bloated, in pain, and addicted to caffeine.
So, as much as stress can feel like an affirmation of hard work and productivity, I invite you to instead take a look at how you’d like to feel when you finish a day of work.
Is it Calm? Excited? Complete? Joyous? Fulfilled? Enlivened? Peaceful? Empowered? Bursting?
When I finish a day of work, I want to feel content and invigorated. So that is what I put my intention on when things start to feel a little overwhelming and I find myself defaulting into stress. I do a quick check-in with my body, take some long deep breaths to get her back into a relaxed state, and proceed with a goal of feeling amazing as opposed to stressed.
Now I want to hear from you. Can you resonate with this idea of wearing stress as a badge of honor? How do you want to feel instead?
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