The Best Stress Tip

 Posted by at 7:46 am  Stress  Add comments
Sep 202011

The Best Stress Tip

The Best Stress Tip

We live in a fast-paced world where change and stress are inevitable.  At various times when I’ve felt “over-stressed,” I have searched far and wide for approaches to “minimize stress” or “eliminate stress”.  After years of experience and varying degrees of success in minimizing and eliminating stress, I came to the conclusion that I had been looking at the issue the wrong way.  It’s not about getting rid of stress; it’s about seeing stress as a challenge.  In other words, see stress as a sign that you are making progress and embrace the opportunity to push through it.

The main catalyst for my change in thinking was a book I read several years ago by James Loehr; it was called Stress for Success.  One principle he taught in that book made a profound impact on how I look at stress and how I’m consistently able to work through it and come out stronger on the “other side”.  The principle was that you don’t want to try to avoid stress, as that is not possible.  Rather, you want to oscillate in and out of stress.  You need cycles of stress and recovery.  Neither a constant stressed state, nor a constant stress-free state is a positive thing.

You can imagine these cycles of stress and recovery however you’d like.  I like to visualize them as sine waves, or a single sine wave, depending on the situation.  This maps very well to the way I think about a lot of things in life as being cyclical.  I use this image in every difficult thing that I do, whether in sport, business, or other parts of my life.  I think it’s a useful metaphor, because implicit in the picture is a ray of hope.  Even though things may be very difficult during a particular period, or in a particular instant, when you visualize the cycles as illustrated here, you know that the difficulty will not last forever.  You know that if you keep pushing and stretch your limits a bit, you will make it to the “other side” and have a chance to rest and recover a bit.

As I’ve said many times elsewhere, I think hope is an essential element of happiness and achievement.  If these were not sine waves as above, but rather, “flat-lines,” like you see on an EKG monitor when someone’s heart has stopped beating, where would the hope be?  Whether the “flat-line” signified perpetual stress or perpetual relaxation, it wouldn’t matter.  In both cases, it would not be something to look forward to.

So, don’t fear stress.  Don’t try to eliminate it.  Embrace stress and see it as a challenge that will make the relaxation and recovery all the more pleasant when you push through to the “other side”.  Always keep in mind that without stress, generally there is not much achievement.  By default, if you are innovating or improving on existing constructs, you are making changes, which invariably entails stress.  You are “making waves”.  Now you can think of them as “sine waves” and see them as a matter of course.  Take them in stride.  Get used to them.  Value the periods of recovery that much more, as you know they will refresh you so you’ll be ready when the next wave arrives … and it will.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin


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  • Paul,
    I think I might have to disagree with you. But the issue is probably one of definition. Over the course of my practice I’ve come to believe that “stress” is never a good thing. Pressure is great. Many of us fail to thrive without some sort of pressure. I’d also want clients to look at the frequency of stressful occurances. Its okay to have a rhythm of pressure & relaxation, or as you say stress & relaxation. But just how often are you moving into stress? Are you oscillating into stress too frequently?

    But to corrupt a famous saying – “stress happens”. That is a fact of life. Learning to deal with stress in a resilient and graceful way is essential for all of us


  • Thanks, Katherine. Sounds like the difference may be in the definition, as you mentioned. It sounds like we may be using stress and pressure somewhat interchangeably, which perhaps shouldn’t be the case, but may be OK. The way I look at stress is it’s any tension or strain (however slight) you may feel as you are trying to get something done or reacting to an environmental stimulus that comes your way. So, for example, I feel stress when I’m preparing for a major presentation. I guess you could say I also feel pressure, but that word is used more in the context of “in the moment”; like, for example, they “choked under pressure”. The bottom line for me, not having thought the semantic differences through too much, is that if you are trying to accomplish something, or even if you are just living in this world, you will encounter stress (and often, pressure) from various sources, so it will be to your benefit to condition yourself to not react negatively to it. If you can instead learn to appreciate it as “par for the course” and realize that it is temporary, you are likely going to handle it better. In terms of the frequency of the oscillation, I think it’s highly correlated to how active you are and what kind of activities you are doing. Thanks again for stopping by and for your thought-provoking comments and questions. Paul

  • That is a great way to look at stress. And your right, some of my best work has been done when I am stressed or rather under pressure.

    Thanks for the food for thought!

  • Sherrie Koretke

    I think that rather than there being a difference between stress and pressure I believe there are different kinds of stress. Stress combined with worry, anxiety, or laced with fear is damaging and is difficult to relieve. Day to day stress when running a business is normal. There are days in which many situations can come at you all at once and there are deadlines to meet. Your technique above is perfect for that. Thanks for the tip!

  • Paul,

    I like your analogy of sine waves. It reminds me of something that my Father told me when I was growing up – life is like a bicycle wheel. When the wheel is heading downwards it may feel scary but you know that it will always come back up the other side. In other words, life is cyclical like you mentioned in your article. The image of a bicycle wheel has often been a good visual for me when life gets a little stressful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  • Exactly! Stress is not all bad! A bit of stress can make you perform better. Too much stress, of course, can have a very detrimental effect on performance and health. So the key is to find a balance, and make sure you keep oscillating in and out of stress. 🙂

  • Thanks, Sherrie. I’m happy you find this approach helpful for managing stress. I agree with your point that sometimes it all seems to come at you at once. The key is being able to move in and out of stress and always realize that there will be a time to rest and recover. It may be a while, but it will come. 🙂

  • Thanks, Linda. I’m an avid cyclist, so I love the bicycle wheel analogy your father taught you. It’s a great way to think about the challenges of life! Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. Paul

  • Food for thought. Thank you, Paul.

  • My pleasure, María.

  • Hi Paul,

    I have to agree with you on this. But with me,
    between an injured arm being fractured twice
    and the thing of the bone and arthritis, and then
    compound that with the stress of having 6 kids
    home still, 4 with special needs and my husband
    being disabled I’ve too much stress. Which has caused
    my health to go down hill.

    That is my next blog I’m writing about. In the last year
    my life has changed so much and I’m hoping I can find
    some way to change it again so I’m in better health.

    Thanks for sharing Paul
    Have a great day

  • Hi, Bonnie. Sorry to hear about the challenges you have run into. I hope that this “stress tip” article will help you deal with some of the stress and pressure you must be feeling on a frequent basis. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Paul

  • Emily Stoik

    Wow, what a great way of looking at stress, Paul…a challenge…I like that! Let your stumbling blocks become stepping stones!! 😀 Great post and I love your perspective on it!!

  • Thanks, Emily. I’m glad you found the article useful! Stress affects us all, so the more techniques and perspective we have to deal with it, the better! Then the trick is just to zero in on the one(s) that work best for you.

  • Yena

    Stress is life’s constant cycle, they keep coming back as make you even stronger each time. However, just be glad about it. Feel great despite the fact that stress has been drowning you.