There’s only a few possible outcomes if an object encounters stress. If an object is strained by an external force factor, it either breaks or bends. We call these properties fragility, elasticity, flexibility and malleability. If an object fails adapt and change to fit its surroundings, what’s likely is that if it faces a stress to great, it will break into pieces. On the other hand, if an object gives in too easily to change and stress, it will be washed around in the currents of its surroundings, losing functionality and becoming no more than dust in the wind.
Evidently, the point I’m trying to make is not about mechanical stress experienced by material objects. I’m talking about the stress that all of us are familiar with. That psychological, emotional and mental stress that has tormented us since we began taking life seriously. Luckily, there’s a way to deal with that stress without crumbling in the face of it.
Stress is largely self-imposed and a malicious product of our personal expectations and mindsets. This means that the more we expect from ourselves and the things around us, the more stress we will receive. Logically, we could then deduce that the way to tackle stress is to become extremely pessimistic about life and not expect anything good from it, right? Wrong. To understand that, we first have to realise the purpose of life and the functionality of our time on the earth. As illustrated by the mechanical analogy above, the purpose of life is not to avoid stress. Because if that’s the case, our lives would be absolutely devoid of functionality. Clearly, there is a sweet spot on the spectrum of stress, a place somewhere in between being stressed out of our wits and being absolutely useless. Our aim today is to be able to locate this sweet spot that is similar yet unique to everyone.
The key to facing stress is being adaptable and yet have unwavering principles that you can stand for. This core set of beliefs will be a boundary that demarcates where’s “in” or “out”. To illustrate, imagine life as a dodgeball game where you try to avoid getting hit in the face by the ball, which represents stress, without getting out of bounds, which represents your core set of beliefs. Though, in life there is no strict rule that dictates what’s wrong to leave this imaginary boundary that you set for yourself, doing so will ensure that you are still in the dodgeball game even though it might mean getting hit once or twice by a stress “ball”. When establishing this set of principles to uphold for the rest of your life, we have to realise that this should not be something too far out of your comfort zone, but a realistic boundary by which you are willing to live.
Once this core set of beliefs is established, you can freely navigate the obstacles that life throws at you and survive the stressful situations of life without losing your identity or foothold. Also, after that you will have the freedom and fortitude to either overcome or circumvent the stressful situations that you encounter in life by tailor your expectations such that they become healthy.
Clearly, this article does not entail the full range of trivial methods to cope with stress, but rather a novel guide that we can follow and an ideal that we can work towards. As such, I hope that you will find that sweet spot on the spectrum of stress and institute a core set of beliefs that will help you lead a purposeful life with a healthy amount of stress.