“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”
– Alan Watts
It’s true; stress is an important and healthy part of life. We use our stress to power through challenging tasks. That adrenaline rush during a workout is your body having a healthy stress response to physical activity. The extreme focus and awareness you feel as you accomplish a complex task at work is another example of the body utilizing stress for your benefit.
The stress you’re probably more familiar with is the unproductive kind: the tension in your neck muscles that keeps you awake at night, the pressure in your chest when you’re nervous about something. This kind of stress doesn’t help us one bit. In fact, in most cases this stress can create a feedback loop of anxiety that compounds within us. “I feel stressed because I can’t sleep, and I can’t sleep because I feel stressed.” Sound familiar?
Then we make the mistake of telling ourselves “if only I could figure these problems out, I could finally relax. I just have to think really hard until everything is resolved.” Within this lie is a kernel of truth; yes, if your problems were solved, you’d feel less stressed. This distracts us from the larger truth, which is that the stress of ceaselessly holding onto these problems is the very thing preventing them from being solved.
So how do you stop this vicious cycle? You must interfere with your thought cycle long enough for your mind and body to recover. Go to a hot yoga class, play a game of Ping-Pong, even just doing a few Sudoku puzzles will engage the mind and help you regain the strength you’ll need when it’s time to face the music.
So give yourself a break guilt-free, knowing that a rested mind, like a muscle, is stronger the next day.