Fear vs Stress – You Have a Friend in _____________

In recent months, I’ve been struggling personally. Learning to balance new responsibilities in my professional life, while trying to keep my existing goals on track, being in a relatively new city with less than a handful of friends and a lacking support system, and of course trying to strengthen the relationship with the amazing person whom I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Adding insult to injury, still reeling the financial debris from a not-so-distant divorce, while trying to structure another long-distance move/relocation in the not-to-distant future. It’s fair to say while not catastrophic, there must be a better way of managing this mid-life chaos without putting yourself into an institution!

So in recent days, I’ve had to have some serious discussions with myself. Here’s what I came up with:

First, I have to separate the fear from the stress. Here’s how:  Structuring the long-distance move… – That’s fear! It isn’t currently happening, and the only things ‘stressing’ me over it are things like ‘what if I don’t like my job there, and what if I can’t afford the move.  These concerns are NOT grounds for stress until they present themselves in real time, so it’s fear.

So here we have this evil character we call fear.  It’s only like the grim reaper of happiness, isn’t it? “Yeah, I’d love to go skydiving, but I’m AFRAID of heights.” or “I really dislike my job, but I’m scared I’ll be less successful”  Who is this ‘fear’ character?

What if I told you fear was the friend you’ve given the upper hand to in your lifelong friendship. Fear is, in fact, your best friend! It will never leave you, and will always look out for your best interest. At some point in your life, you made the mistake of letting fear take the wheel. Fear’s job is that of a co-pilot or ‘shotgun’ on a long road trip. Fear can play some creepy music if you’re headed into unknown territory, fear can also suggest you take a path different than what you planned because it might be the path more traveled.

You are the one driving this ship called your life, though. Do you always take the advice of your best friend? Do you occasionally say ‘Thank you, but this is the path I’ve decided on, and we’re going to take this less traveled path together? I promise you, fear will still come with you!  It’ll be there to knock sense into you, and will keep you from taking a nap in a dark, unsafe rest area, but it doesn’t control you – Unless you allow it. Keep your fear on a short leash and NEVER let it walk in front of you.  Allow it to be your best friend, and walk in step at your side through life.

Back to my story; stress – now that’s the real grim reaper in our lives. Sure we all need some stress. Scientifically thinking, gravity causes stress to our bones but also keeps us literally grounded. It seems today, more than ever society not only thrives on this thing called stress, but it seems to create stress trying to fight it! Things like the heat of the moment contention or misalignments at work, imminent financial turmoil, terminal illness in the family are all grounds for seemingly bona fide and warranted stress. Let’s face it, stress in our 21st Century society is absolutely unavoidable.

Unlike fear, these stresses are NOT your friend and will never look out for your best interest.  Stress will only take years off your life and lead you down often dark roads of addiction, false relationships, and illness.

While fear needs to be trained, stress needs to be minimized. We all have different coping tools for stress and some of us cope far better than others. Ever wonder why a successful 40-something professional with a family, multiple homes, expenses, and other issues that we all share as humans can keep their head on straight and still look like they’re 35, meanwhile, someone who’s been less successful at dealing with personal stress could be 30 years old, has a minimalistic life and seemingly nothing to show for themselves looks sickly and in their mid-40’s?

More times than not, its mal-managed stress. If you haven’t found YOUR effective method of coping with stress, don’t stop looking. As an individual, we all have our own ways. For me, its exercise by bicycle, for others it may be running, or going to a local Zen center to learn to meditate.

In upcoming notes, we’ll discuss meditation and other stress relievers that may be helpful in your life!

Meanwhile, read this amazing ‘Letter to Fear’ from one of my favorite authors – Elizabeth Gilbert:

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