Everyday, we hear a lot of news about stress and all of the negative side effects associated with experiencing it. Media outlets such as TV, magazines, radio, and the Internet, constantly bombard us with news stories discussing dangers of too much stress. In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of all doctors’ visits today are for symptoms resulting from the chronic effects of a stressful lifestyle. Clearly, stress is the enemy of health, right?
Let’s take a look at stress from a different perspective. Not only is stress not bad, it’s required for growth, and can help you achieve things you never thought possible. Consider exercise. When a person lifts weights, he or she puts more stress on the muscles and the bones of the body. And despite the damage that the muscles incur as they are broken down during the weight lifting process, the body quickly repairs the damage and returns the muscles to a healthy state that is even stronger before.
Likewise, the body begins to lay down more calcium in the bones, creating stronger healthier bones. In fact, regular weight lifting has been shown in numerous studies to be one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis. Further, studies have shown that when you work out only one muscle group, all of the muscles in the body benefit. Thus by working out you arms, the muscles in your legs also become more toned. In this case, putting stress on the muscles and bones results in a stronger healthier body. In the same manner, cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart.
The immune system is another great example of how stress results in greater health. Whenever the immune system is challenged by a bacteria or virus, such as the cold or flu, it’s forced to step up and defend against the foreign invader. Once the threat has been removed, the body maintains what is called an acquired immunity. The body is in fact now immune to catching the same strain of virus again. Once again, the body was stressed, it rose to the challenge, and it came away stronger and healthier than before.
In this same way, all of life’s trials and tribulations, all of the challenges thrown our way, provide opportunities for growth. In fact, they’re a prerequisite for growth. If one where to remove the stress, then much of the motivation to strive for success would be removed as well. Therefore, the real test is not stress itself, but in how one responds to it. Merely experiencing stress is not unhealthy. Stress does become a problem, however, when one remains stuck in the pattern. The body is never given a sufficient opportunity to heal, nor do we seize the opportunity for personal growth. Instead, the body remains, in a state of fight or flight, just trying to survive.
The key to every crisis is how one perceives it. The fight or flight response is triggered in the body when an event is perceived as a threat. This response, however, is interrupted and changed when one takes the time to find the silver lining present in every challenge. By doing this, one is able to maintain a state of inner calm and balance, despite what is going on in the outside world. From this state, one is often more capable of responding, instead of reacting, and finding the hidden opportunity to learn and love.
Life is often stressful and overwhelming. However, it’s also constantly presenting opportunities, frequently in the form of a crisis, for us to grow beyond what we ever thought possible. In every situation, crisis, or challenge, there lies a blessing to return to a greater state of wholeness, a state that could not have been experienced any other way. In this way, stress serves as a catalyst for growth and healing. When you take the time to truly find the benefit or blessing in every crisis, you transform the challenge into an opportunity to unfold into the unique and amazing person you were always meant to be.
Image: Sara V.