Stress Isn’t The Problem… – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From:

My own counselor opened my eyes to this.  I came to her last week saying “oh man, I’m sooooo stressed, it’s terrible.”  And she looked at me and said, “you know stress isn’t your problem.  It’s your reaction to stress.”

With such a simple sentence my counselor opened my mind to a brand new way that I could have a relationship to stress.  I, like most people, have a very troubled relationship with stress.  When stress happens I do a number of unhealthy coping behaviors.  I hyper focus on the “problem” losing sight of other things in my life.  I engage “do it” mode which throws me into action, not taking the time to simply be with stress.  I sometimes run away from stress, escaping into movies, socializing, and even Facebook.

With the help of my counselor, I sat down and just held stress’ hand.  I noticed that stress just wanted to let me know there were some glitches with my plans.  Stress wanted to make sure I knew I had some strong emotions to pay attention to, like anger, sadness, confusion, and fear.  Stress wanted me to slow down and breathe.  Stress wanted me to find ways to take care of myself.

Who knew stress wanted such beautiful things?

If you’re like me, you probably see stress as the problem.  “If only I didn’t feel so stressed out I wouldn’t binge eat/goof off online/lose sleep/over work/etc.”  But we’re confusing the experience of stress with our reaction to stress.  We’re not taking the time to simply be with stress.  Instead we throw ourselves into various distractions to try and numb out or avoid this feeling.

In this moment can you identify something you are stressed about?  Can you now just breathe?  Just breathe and be present to your stress.  Where is it in your body?  What is your stress asking you to do?  Cry?  Scream?  Hide under a blanket?  Is it asking you to take a nap?  To go for a jog?  What glitch in your plans is it pointing to?  Can you tell stress what you intend to do about that glitch and then set it aside?

This process is almost as new to me as it is to you.  So I don’t have any cheat sheet or clear cut, three step, process to building a healthy relationship with stress.  But I can tell you what, this past weekend my parents came to visit me and I got a lot of time practicing being with my stress.  And I learned a few things.

I don’t actually have to “do” anything.  And often there is nothing “to do”.  Just breathe.

I need to give myself space to express all my emotions that stress is pointing to.  Anger, frustration, sadness, fear, confusion, overwhelm, and tiredness.

When I’m paying attention I can set a new plan with stress and then take my attention away.  I don’t need to fixate, and fixation is simply a signal that I’m not paying attention.

Will you join me in exploring how we can build a healthier relationship to stress?  Can we even take on the challenge of befriending stress?  Can we reach a place where we actually welcome stress in like an old friend?

Let’s find out. is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.