“I'm so stressed!”
We hear ourselves and others say it all the time but what does it really mean? We just know stress is bad for our health and causes us to devour chocolate chip cookies, consume stiff cocktails, and get snippy with the people we love the most.
Even saying the words “I'm stressed” can be addicting, and sharing our stressed-out states can help us feel connected to other frazzled beings. After all, if you are not stressed in “this economy,” you certainly won't be sitting at the cool kids' lunch table.
Stress is Not an Emotion
Karla McLaren's Language of Emotions is a must read, and she teaches us that stress is not an emotion. Tough to digest, I know. Let's just say it's true for a moment. Then, a big question arises, “If stress isn't an emotion, then what am I feeling?”
Here are some examples of what might arise:
I'm stressed…I mean, I'm ashamed of that cigarette I just smoked after leaving yoga.
I'm stressed…I mean, I'm envious of the perfect lives portrayed on Facebook.
I'm stressed…I mean, I'm afraid of sharing my authentic self and creative ideas with the others and people thinking I suck.
The lunch table just got quiet. But at least we have an idea about where to go from here:
What is that cigarette feeding for me (other than the physical addiction) and how can I relax and reflect in healthier ways?
Can I log off Facebook and turn inward? What do I want in my life and how can I take actionable steps to get there?
How can I embrace fear as a powerful intuitive force but not remain so hyper-vigilant that it stifles my dreams and desires?
This task is not for the faint of heart. It makes us more vulnerable and way more responsible for our lives. Some days we might consciously choose to wade in the familiar waters of the “stressed out” kiddie pool. And that's perfectly okay. In fact, it may be exactly what we need in that moment.
But for today, I'm putting on my floaties and choosing to paddle a little deeper. I'm thinking it will be worth it.