How To Overcome Stress And Develop Healthy Relationships

Most of us tend to believe that stress can be solved by avoiding it entirely. But if we look at how we think — in the moment and while in the present — it’s not always possible to do so. Instead, as we explore the steps to getting in touch with feelings we experience in the present, we can re-frame stress from a reactive stress system to a proactive, healing one.

My last two blogs have examined how we tend to view stress: reactive stress as a “black hole” in which we must suck the energy for life — energy that is not ours to give; and positive experiences (positive emotions or states) as a place to which we must return. In the last post, however, I challenged the idea that stress can be solved simply by avoiding it. I wrote: “It could be said the best way to live is not to live at all.” In order to live your best life, we must develop strong, flexible and healthy ways to deal with stress — ways that have helped many, many other people over the years. We must learn to be mindful, self-aware, and patient when we encounter feelings of stress, because these emotions can quickly overwhelm us.

This blog series has been about how to develop a positive relationship with stress. But in order to develop our positive relationships, we must be mindful of our negative emotions, too. For that, I’ll be spending time today with fear, and how we can use fear as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Let’s look at how fear is often viewed in the social sphere. In a recent post , I spoke specifically about how fear has been used as a weapon to keep us in submission by people and institutions who seek control. In one of my recent blog posts, , I also spoke about how fear can be both a sign and a symptom of illness, which gives it a role in the medical realm. Here’s a few excerpts from the latter portion of that post, where I discussed how the presence of fear can influence our feelings of illness:

The last time I felt this way was while I was in my last week of the post-surgical-surgery, five-month post-surgery recovery. I had gone through the physical and psychological tests at the end of the post-operative period and the nurses came to my bedside to check to see whether I was sick or not. All my physical tests were clear but at that moment I was feeling a great deal of fear. At that exact instant a small, red-faced young patient rushed in and said to the nurses, “Please give me a little room! It’s dangerous here, I have to sleep on the floor!” Now I was pretty frightened myself, for I had just heard a rumor – probably from a doctor – that it was bad for me, that I can’t eat, that I’m just wasting my time here. In fact, from that moment on I realized that I was not feeling the way I wanted to at all. I was not happy at all. But this fear…it was as big a problem to me as if I’d been sick all the time. I began to think that it’s a kind of disease, that it’s a mental disease.

And then I got the feeling that I was falling into a nightmare, that my mental health is suffering because of this fear. And this feeling was the fear itself. So that’s what I call my fear of being sick again.

This is the point I was trying to make in that post — how fear can distort our perceptions of our health and the quality of our lives. Fear can make us look at our health less objectively, as though we see the disease as something that’s happening to us, not something that is part of us. But when one faces their fears, they become aware of their internal health system and the messages that it sends. Those messages often serve as a good reminder of how they’re treating themselves — so if they’re feeling worried or sad, they can remind themselves that they’re being treated right. But if we don’t acknowledge the messages that our fears provide, they can get more powerful and start controlling how we think about ourselves. One way in which fear can impact us is through the way we respond to it.