Dear Stress

Dear Stress,

You and I have had a long history, and I hate to leave you behind, but I’m quite frankly ready to be over with you, and I’m not alone. I’ll be happy to see you occasionally, but limit your visits to necessary occasions please, and I might even find gratitude for your existence.

Warm wishes, Myriam

It’s a long and windy road, the one that we have to take to reconsider our relationship to stress and clear it out of the way where it is not necessary. While teaching seminars on stress in corporate settings, I was struck by one constant: most of us talk about stress like it’s an enemy, a terrorist of sorts planting bombs in every street corner. Yet, most of us cannot imagine our daily lives without it.

As much as we all daydream about stress-free lives, are we really ready to shed this unfortunate friend and clear the space? Being stressed-out is the “new” normal, as Gary Kraftsow aptly observed. And it takes effort to not be “normal.”

What is your perception of people who are not stressed-out? People who have time to sleep, and eat, and read, and enjoy themselves? Chances are you’re thinking they’re lazy, flaky, they’ve won the lifestyle lottery, or maybe you think that they have it figured out why-is-it-that-I-can’t-figure-it-out-too.

The first question you need to ask yourself is: would you allow yourself to live mostly stress-free if you could? Given the option, would you feel comfortable going to work without rushing out the door, work effectively without missing a break, accomplish your home chores without sweating it, answer your four-year-old’s sixty-sixth question of the day without losing it? Are you somehow afraid of what others will think if they see you “on top of things”? Will they think I’m not working hard enough, will they think I’m not taking it seriously enough, will they think I’m flaky, irresponsible, useless?

I'll be writing to you, dear Stress. Feel free to take an extended break, you deserved it.