Experiencing success in life depends just as much on rebounding from stress and adversity as it does setting future goals and developing focus and motivation needed to be your best. In fact, a strong argument can be made that stress coping is the single most important human quality when it comes to life success. The reality is human beings do fairly well when life goes their way, but what happens to our mental health in those moments where there are hurdles to overcome? Life is full of peaks and valleys, and learning how to successfully cope with stress, adversity, frustration, and failure is often the difference between winning and losing in life.
When it comes to stress, it quickly becomes a life experience that is quite unique to every individual. What is stressful to one person is a healthy challenge to another, providing clear evidence that “stress” is not something everyone sees the same way. Stress is loosely defined as a feeling of emotional or physical tension triggered from an event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or defeated. Since different thoughts and life events have different effects on different people, it is nearly impossible to say what is and isn’t stressful to humans. Furthering the point about the ambiguities about stress, some psychologists like Hans Seyle have ordered stress into categories of good (eustress) and bad (distress) stress, but here again while some events may be perceived as good stress (i.e. getting a job promotion and making more money), an individual can still experience bad stress by feeling overworked and exhausted with new responsibilities. Stress is difficult to define (it’s not something we can set on a table and view), and people categorize stress in their own unique ways based on their ways of thinking and previous life experiences. Still, if we set aside differences in understanding stress, we can appreciate that whatever stress we do experience is best met with healthy, safe, effective coping that allows us to overcome life challenges and continue toward a pursuit of happiness, health, and peak productivity.
Coping with stress
Since it is impossible to live a life devoid of stress, adversity, frustration, and failure, it is more important to develop healthy coping strategies than it is to try avoid all obstacles thrown at you in life. When it comes to stress coping, approaches should be both effective and healthy, and not simply “effective.” For example, getting drunk is effective in the sense that most people do not continue thinking about their stressors while they are drinking, but clearly using alcohol as a means of problem-solving and coping is not a healthy way to go. Drinking may provide a temporary respite from stressful thinking, but it does nothing in terms of helping resolve stressful life situations.
Instead, when choosing stress coping approaches consider whether the idea is effective (i.e. helps you take a temporary time out from ruminating over the stressor), and healthy (does not exacerbate the situation, and may even help it). Healthy coping mechanism examples include walking, jogging, working out, reading, creating things, gardening, or listening to music. These coping approaches are healthy in that they won’t make your problems worse, and you may improve your physical health and intellectual development as a result of doing the activity.
We routinely talk about stress, but few people really stop to think about how perception impacts what we call stress, and how important it is to develop effective and healthy stress coping mechanisms to ward off negative stress effects. We as humans are constantly pushed by life expectations and situations, and it is how we respond in those moments that determines whether we experience happiness and success, or increased frustration and poor results. Fortunately, improving the ways in which you appraise and deal with stress is something we can all improve upon, so long as we are determined to overcome our life challenges and experience a better tomorrow.