harnessing your emotions: stress

i used to want a stress free lifestyle. i used to think that stress was an indicator of something broken in my personal system. over the last year, i’ve changed my mind.

from an evolutionary perspective, our emotional responses (probably) are linked to survival. fear kept us safe. stress keeps us focused. happiness reinforces beneficial behavior. (inspiration: several episodes of design matters and onbeing; can’t totally remember which ones anymore).

and even though the world (well, for some of us) is less imminently dangerous than it used to be, our emotional responses still exist. some would say this an evolutionary lag. our bodies aren’t able to keep up with the rate at which we are changing our surroundings.

either way, these responses aren’t going away. and i’ve been inspired by audre lorde to use these emotional responses as engines for action (“The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Anger”).

real world application: my friend ross and i were both stressed a few weeks ago so we did a little intellectual digging. why were we stressed? what were the sources of it? 

some of the stress was preventable; it followed from mistakes. ok so given that… how could we use the stress as a motivator for action? the stress response, in relation to a mistake, could be a trigger for learning. in order to not be stressed in the future, i shouldn’t make that mistake again.

other stress is not preventable; a crazy situation at work came up and you have to respond to it. how could stress be an engine for action? unclear, actually…

but either way, acknowledging the stress, dissecting it a little, and using it (when possible) as an advantage seemed helpful. it definitely felt more productive than drowning in it or being paralyzed by it.