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The Gazelle & The Lion

By: Michael Blankenship |

“Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present.”

– Seneca

Working hard or hardly working? 

If you want to find out, you can take five minutes and fill out this Perceived Stress Scale questionnaire — named such because stress is really a matter of perception. 

This is why two different people can jump out of a plane and have totally different experiences. One will be enlivened by the experience. The other perhaps traumatized. They both experienced stress, but in entirely different ways. 

In fact, there’s a name for good stress (or rather, stress we perceive as being good): eustress, which the dictionary defines as “moderate or normal psychological stress, interpreted as being beneficial.”

And we all need some eustress in our lives. In an article titled, The Dark Side of Having No Stress, explains the results of one popular study. Namely, people with no stress in their lives had lower cognitive functioning, less emotional support, and weaker friend groups. 

Stress is good… if we think it’s good

The trick is to be like a lion, embracing the challenge and facing it head-on… rather than the gazelle, jumping and running at the first sign of trouble. 

Perception is everything. 

Here are some practical ways you can improve your relationship with stress. 

Set Aside Time To Worry — Bad stress rears its head when we overthink and overanalyze negative possible outcomes. But if our brains want to do that, why not give them a set amount of time to do so? When you’re stressed, allow yourself 10-15 minutes of dedicated “worrying time” where you can make notes and think through the problem. Set a timer. Once that time is up, you’ve got to let it go and move on. 

Meditate — You are not your thoughts. This is only something you can learn and internalize through regular meditation. Take 5-10 minutes every day to watch your thoughts pass… and recognize that you can be entirely unimpacted by their presence if you so wish. 

Disconnect — Thanks to technology and remote work, we live in an “always on” culture. Our bosses, friends, and distant family members can contact us whenever they like for pretty much any reason. And we let them. But it’s important to disconnect from the noise every day for a set period of time. In the evening (perhaps from 7pm onward), commit to not getting online. It’ll make a big difference in your stress levels.  

Trust in a Good Night’s Sleep — Not all your problems can be solved today. Sometimes, you’ve just got to go to bed and wait until tomorrow. It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for your problem-solving capabilities.

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