Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stress and Release

Stress isn't a bad thing. Wait, you might wonder how I could say something like that. Everyone wants to reduce stress and relax. There's this assumption that underlies the messages we hear on a daily basis: stress is bad and must be removed.

I disagree. We need stress. We need to embrace it and use it well. Our marriages need more stress. Ok, I know you're about ready to tune me out, but I have somewhere I'm going that I think you'll like.

Stress is a response of fear. When the fear jumps on us unawares it can debilitate us. This kind of fear is the fight-or-flight response that's locked deep inside our brains (known as our lizard brains). If you're suddenly faced with a terrifying situation your stress response will come out before you can think. If a tiger jumps out of the forest or a driver slams on their brakes in front of you, you'll have a similar reaction. But, we can choose the fears that we're facing most of the time.

Fear can motivate change. If you look at your fears and the things that cause you stress, you can find out what needs to change. For example, if you feel stressed due to a project at work, it's because you're afraid of something. You might be afraid of failing, afraid of being late or even afraid of being too successful (yes, it can happen). When you look at the fear behind your stress response, you can identify what needs to change. If you feel stress in your marriage around money, then it might be time to change how you deal with finances. What are you afraid of? What can you do to address the fears?

Take on stress intentionally. Choose your stress to address your fears. If you're stressed about your health, you can choose the course of diet and exercise to improve your life. Instead of being reactionary to your fears, you choose how you are going to experience the stress. The fear stops being a whip that drives you forward and becomes something you can eliminate from your life (which is a reward).

Release your stress regularly. You can't live in fear all the time. Even Hollywood directors know this so they give you the comic relief in the scary movie. Just like you can choose your stress, you can choose to release it regularly. If you're working on your budget, put a line in there to save up for a weekend trip. Once you've hit a goal, reward yourself with the trip. If you're losing weight, you need to find a point where you can stop and celebrate your progress. If you're working hard on a project, you need the time to take satisfaction in a job well done before you move on to the next project.

Choose your stress and release together. Working on your marriage is hard work. It takes a concerted effort to have conversations, to process through conflict and to explore new ways to be romantic. Set a goal, work on it together and then take time to celebrate before you move on to the next thing.

How do you see the cycle of stress and release in your marriage?


  1. Linked here from New Wineskins. Enjoyed several of your articles. Good work.