“What’s Stress?”

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

Bruce Lee

I was talking on the phone the other day with my grandmother (gran, is what we’ve always called her). I don’t remember exactly what we were chatting about, but at one point I brought of the fact that I was feeling over-stressed. And then she floored me with this question —

“What’s stress?”

I… huh? I did a double-take. I then spent the next couple minutes fumbling for how to define what stress is. She didn’t know. (or maybe she didn’t hear me.) If you hear stories of her childhood, it’s not like she had it easy growing up—far. from it. There was plenty of ‘stress’ in her life. Plus she’s always on the move. Always doing something. Never idle. Stress wasn’t in her vocabulary. She just did what she had to do.

Maybe she misheard me. It was early, so I likely still had my deep Barry White morning voice.

Regardless, it got me thinking, what is stress anyway?

Is it real? Is it transmittable?

Don’t get me wrong, stress is real. But our idea of it is made up. It’s a label we ascribe.

According to Stress.org, Hans Selye borrowed the concept of stress from physics and applied it to his medical patients as a force that produces strain on the body. The interesting thing is this occurred in the 1920s, a hundred+ years ago.

You can feel it. You can see it on the face and body of others. You can taste its bittersweetness. You can hear its heavy sigh and breath. It’s specific, and generally. And it can own you if you aren’t careful.

Stress is a lot of things —

Stress is when we overdo it (and know we are overworking but do it anyway).

Stress is doing things that go against our values and character.

Stress choosing immediacy and gratification over freedom.

Stress is living above your means.

Stress is doing things that are detrimental to your health (like not enough sleep, too much work, or too many daily cookies).

A little stress is a part of life. Too much stress is a choice. Sometimes we need it to get better. Most of the time it’s a limitation, not a benefit. We should never let it control us (or make us into something we don’t want to be).

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #892

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