Is “Stress Management” Stressing You Out?

Published on February 15, 2013 by

“Stress management.” I don’t know about you, but there’s something amiss when it comes to the idea of managing your stress. It’s not that toxic stress isn’t a big deal – it is. Toxic stress cuts deeply into our happiness, health, and overall well-being. At work, it is responsible for employees taking “mental health” days, and it costs us untold millions of dollars in increased health insurance costs and lost productivity. Away from work, toxic stress wears us down and keeps us from connecting with friends and family.

So stress is a big deal. Even so, the idea of “stress management” is misguided, and I want to explore an alternative. Here’s why: “Stress management” has the wrong focus – it’s all about stress. Even the solutions offered by stress management are all tied to stress. They are about reducing and avoiding what? Stress! As for me, what I want is to thrive in life.

What I suggest is that we shift our energies away from stress management and instead learn how to thrive in life. Wouldn’t you rather pour your life into your dreams and into what is important and meaningful in your life than manage your stress?

Do you see and feel the difference? The topic of stress management focuses on managing what’s not going well in your life. The topic of thriving focuses on what is going well and building on that. Thriving is about asking yourself, “If I were to design my ideal life, what would it look like?” That’s how Positive Psychology was born in 1989. Martin Seligman, Ph.D. began to ask, “How can we foster happiness, health, and well-being instead of just trying to be less unhappy?”

Our focus makes a difference. What we put our attention on and where we invest our energy makes a difference. We need to focus on what is going well in our lives, envision what our ideal life looks like, and play to our strengths. This isn’t to say that we should be in denial about frustrations or pain in our lives – as we focus on what we want, what we don’t want will be taken care of.

In my book, Seven Secrets to Enlightened Happiness! Living the Life You Were Meant to Live, I suggest that the way to deal with our problems, challenges, and setbacks is to focus on increasing our happiness – and in doing so, we will transcend our problems.

We can either focus on managing our stress, or we can focus on how we can tap into our power to thrive in life. We will have challenges and setbacks either way, but how we deal with them will make all the difference. As for me, I’m not concerned about “managing” my stress – I want to focus my mind, body, and spirit in the direction of health, well being, and…thriving. What about you?

1 Comment

  1. Rob Schlotthauer

    Alan, thanks for another inspiring and refreshing post! Yes, I can see and feel the difference between focusing on what I want instead of, ugh... "managing my stress". Focusing on thriving and creating positive energy seems the best way to achieve the shift of seeing "problems" as exciting opportunities.
    -Rob

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