positive stress

Wait, what?!?

The word ‘stress’ has always held such a negative connotation for me. And 95% of the articles and conversations in my life, that have been read, heard or participated in, have all been regarding the negative side of stress – distress, as some refer to it. It has never crossed my mind that there could be a ‘positive’ type of stress… until today.

I happened to be glancing through a backlog of emails, and the subject of one was ‘positive stress’. So that is the first one I read, of course! 😉
The official term for it is ‘Eustress’. It is defined as being ‘a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being‘.

The good stress is the kind that is nerve and hormone driven – it has to do with excitement, even if we are stepping into the unknown. The list of triggers for this kind of stress is very long, and as I read through them, I understood another statement I had read just moments earlier.

The statement was this : ”Many times good stress itself turns bad… because instead of continuing to challenge ourselves in a healthy way, we often tend to overwhelm ourselves by placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves, even though we know our resources are limited.”

One of the triggers for ‘good stress’ was ‘taking on a project that will help you showcase your strengths, which will not only bring you professional satisfaction, but many positive reactions in your emotional well-being too’.

My first reaction to reading that as being an example for eustress was a firm shake of my head. Because it didn’t happen that way for me at all! And as I pondered my reaction, I reread this statement : ”Many times good stress itself turns bad… because instead of continuing to challenge ourselves in a healthy way, we often tend to overwhelm ourselves by placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves, even though we know our resources are limited.”
And I realised that THAT was in fact what had happened to me in my situation!

In my late twenties, I had been offered an amazing opportunity to use my talents and head up a new project that my current boss was considering taking on. It would mean a lot of research, but I was going to be able to not only draft the presentation, but actually present it myself, to a group of influential people in that line of work. I hardly slept that night because I was just so excited, and the ideas swimming around in my head were ‘Olympic quality swimmers’ 😉
By lunchtime the next day, I was sick to my stomach, and convinced my heart was gearing up to fail me.
In our meeting of opportunity, my boss had actually been the one to fail me. He’d handed me the Dessert, before showing me the full menu!

The presentation meeting had already been scheduled – I had three days, start to finish!
None of the presentation work could be done during working hours, as I was already busy all day, handling all the administration for his other three businesses – this included payroll and bookkeeping etc. I was newly divorced with an eighteen-month-old baby girl, and an eight-year-old son, with no child care options available to me.
Eustress escalated quickly into distress. And by the time the meeting arrived, I was physically ill as a result of lack of sleep, and, well, ‘bad’ stress.

And at the end of it all, I was not only physically ill, but unhappy emotionally too – I knew it wasn’t my best work, I was disappointed in myself and felt inadequate…. and my confidence definitely took a knock.
I suppose the lesson in my personal experience with work stress was simply this : to know myself, to be realistic about the resources I have, and to learn to speak up before I get overwhelmed (or overwhelm myself, I suppose).
And, in all honesty, it would serve me to remember to apply that to all areas in my life 😉

I’ll close with this little list, which was provided as ways to include/introduce more positive stress in your life :

• Make an effort to learn something new every day – even if it is something small
• Get out of your comfort zone – try taking on a new challenge in the ‘great unknown’.
• Boost your positive endorphins by getting some exercise!
• Start delving into ways to set realistic, yet challenging, goals and try a new way each week, growing these over time.

And that’s all from me for today ❤
I’m off to spend some time on the new course I signed up for 😉

Pressure to Perform

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This happens to me pretty much every morning. Most of my days are usually quite productive though, but I never seem to get through ALL I would like to accomplish on any particular day. Some say that this is because I set ridiculous expectations of myself when it comes to ‘things I need to do’. I like to say that when it comes to what I do each day, I like to make every day a Norman Vincent Peale day! Every morning, with my first big, beautiful cup of coffee, I think about what I’d like to achieve. And although I accept the realities, I still list those many tasks. I shoot for the moon, and then every night I smile contentedly because I know I have at least landed among the stars! (Yes, my house has a roof and no, I don’t live in the sky 😛 )

Admittedly, a lot of these beautiful early morning coffee goals for the day end with me feeling something like this :

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This is partly because of all the running I do. No, not running as in exercise. I don’t run. I don’t even jog. So if you ever see me running, you should run too, because that means something is chasing me.

(I don’t know who originally came up with that quote, but according to the hyperlink it was Kristen Proby. It seems it was used in her book, and the name of the character who said it? Meg! Although that Meg is described as a sexy rocker chick 😛 but having the same name still makes it mighty coincidental 😉 )

By running, I actually mean driving around in my car for what I count as too many hours in my day, playing Mom’s Taxi. There’s the school run, and then there’s the extra curricular activities run. During the extra run, I usually end up hanging around in my car for a couple of hours. I live about 20 minutes away from where her activity takes place, but fuel (like everything else) is very expensive, and I don’t see the sense of driving back and forth in such a small time frame. My daughter is a dancer – she has been chosen three years in a row now to represent our country at World Champs. So I guess I’m a dance mom (just nothing like what you see on that show!) The joke in our studio is that we all ‘live in our cars’.
(We have a non-existent public transport system, and the little of it that exists is far too dangerous to even consider.)
So from the list, I usually select things that I can do from the discomfort of my car.

The reason I am telling you all of this (other than the fact that these were a collection of Facebook pictures I had liked and saved, and discovered and was amused at how they all kind of fit together?)…..

These days there seems to be a lot of pressure to perform. Whether it’s as complex as achieving some greatness and stature in our careers, or as simple as being a ‘better, closer to perfect’ parent, the stresses that come from this overwhelming pressure can be detrimental to our health.
The sad thing is that it is not only society or other individuals that put this pressure on us. We have a tendency to do it all by ourselves, to ourselves.
We push ourselves into overachiever mode, in an attempt to do more and be more. For me personally, this is related to the fact that I am often told I can’t, I won’t, I don’t.
And so there is this itch inside me that often causes an ‘overdrive’ scratch…. the results are usually less than desirable, and I wind up in a place that is nowhere near the achievement goal I had set out for myself.
I don’t go into overdrive as often as I used to, thank goodness.

I have learnt that my brain has limitations and that sleep is necessary. I can never be effective if I am dead on my feet.
I have learnt that it is sometimes necessary to take a step back when I am feeling stressed. To breathe deeply and think carefully. And use the energy that stress can create in a positive way – controlling the stress instead of allowing it to control me.
I have learnt that having a to-do list and planning ahead in certain circumstances does not make me a nerd, or detract from my spontaneity. Instead it prepares me and creates a better environment in which to perform.
I have learnt that sometimes acknowledging the small wins can open doors to greater things.
My biggest obstacle, I know, is to ask for help. When there is pressure to perform, the best thing you can do for yourself, is to ask for help (even if it’s just with menial tasks). For some silly reason (perhaps because I have always been the carer and helper, and it feels weird to ‘have the shoe on the other foot’) I struggle to reach out and ask others for any form of help. I really need to work on that!

I always end my night like this though, no matter how the day behind me unfolded….

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Are there any of these that you struggle with?