Stress & meaning

People who experienced the highest number of stressful events in the last year were most likely to consider their lives meaningful.

So how can stress be good for you?


Well it has to do with how you think about stress. When we believe stress is bad for us, the normal and expected parts of life can start to feel like an imposition, keeping our lives from how they really should be.


When we step back and examine the things in life that cause us the most stress, we may find that in fact they are also the things that bring us the most meaning or are deeply important to us.


Try this for yourself. Make a list of the things that cause you the most stress. Then make a list of your most meaningful roles, relationships, activities, goals, or causes.


How much overlap is there between the two lists? Why are those things important to you? How would you feel if some of those areas of meaning were no longer in your life?


 The same experiences that give rise to daily stress can also be sources of uplift or meaning - but we must choose to see them that way.


The Normative Aging Study on stress showed that "daily hassles" compared to major life events were a bigger predictor of mortality. But what was killing study participants wasn't the presence of everyday stress, but their attitude toward it.


*The mindset* of feeling burdened rather than uplifted by aspects of everyday life (spouse, work, cooking, etc.) is what best predicted risk of death in study participants over five decades.


So how do you find meaning in daily stress?


One of the most effective interventions is to journal about your most important values and how your daily activities relate to those values.


This simple activity helps you find the meaning in your life and helps transform 'hassles' into expressions of your values.


For more on the newest stress research, checkout Dr. Kelly McGonigal's book: "The Upside of Stress"