I haven’t been sleeping very well the last few nights. One such night, I decided to watch something while waiting for sleep to come. And what I found was this TED Talk on how stress can be good.
My anxiety makes a lot of things stressful for me. And the fact is that living at those levels of stress aren’t healthy. Yet this talk argued that it isn’t stress that is unhealthy, but rather how you handle it.
The speaker showed convincing research that suggested that those who experience regular stress and view it as a negative have very negative consequences. Yet those who view stress as the body’s way of getting amped up for a challenge had much better results.
And this ties into something I talk about with my therapist, which is that you can’t change how you body reacts to something but you can change how you react to that reaction.
And I’ll be the first to admit this is an exceptionally tall mountain to climb for those with anxiety, depression, and/or some other mental illness. It is uncomfortable confronting the things that make you anxious and the safety of retreating offers comfort. It is natural. It is something you don’t think about. Conversely, to re-train your mind to view that mental illness induced stress as a good thing takes conscious effort and when your anxiety creates constant stress, the constant conscious effort to combat that sounds exhausting. But so does running a marathon. Except that no one runs a marathon without working up to it and no one expects you to change how you handle your mental illness induced stress in one day. I certainly don’t expect that of myself.
Instead, my goal is to just once today view stress as a good thing. And I’ve already done it. Remember when I said I haven’t been sleeping well? It is because I am going through a bit of a depression right now, one that in the past would cause me to call in sick or at least try working from home. The idea of getting out of bed this morning after the few hours of sleep I’d managed to cobble together was stressful to the point of being almost unbearable. But I viewed that stress as an extra shot that will push me through a sleep-deprived, depression filled day that in the past might have conquered me. I got dressed. I went to work. I wrote this post, etc. And it sucks, pushing through that stress (and authors note if you think this post sucks, you don’t get to judge me for it because just writing it was a win while struggling with a depression, editing and polishing it is too much right now). But it is proof to me that I can push through it. At least once. And that can be a tonic for the next troubled time that comes. And maybe next week I’ll try viewing two moments of mental illness induced stress as a good thing.
And I hope, if you are struggling, that you’ll join me. If you are struggling, try, just once today, to view the stress you feel as your body fighting the mental illness with you instead of against you. And maybe, just maybe, together we will be able to tell our shiny stories of stress.