I was recently watching an excellent Ted Talk on ‘How to Make Stress Your Friend’ presented by Psychologist Kelly McGonigal. What drew me toward this topic was being in the middle of a particularly chaotic week – travel, project deadlines, family activities – we’ve all been there. Not to mention I had recently taken several drastic steps to avoid stress and considering that it might be my “friend” after all manufactured quite the eye roll.
Turns out, this talk is just what I needed to hear. When Kelly so eloquently says, “chasing meaning is better for your health than avoiding a challenge,” I realized (and remembered) that avoiding stress, chaos, and busy-ness is not MY answer.
Let’s rewind: About six months ago, I decided to take a step back from a [fairly] successful run as a tech marketing executive to do freelance work and reduce the amount of perceived stress in my life.
You know the scene – The laundry was NEVER folded. Meals were mostly from the microwave. I took calls at 6am, 6pm, and during vacations. Stepping back to “get more balance” was such an obvious choice when I talked with my husband and friends. We could cut back and live with less. It would all be worth it.
The cold reality was that I had an extremely hard time letting go as my mind replayed the same question – “Why did getting more balance mean giving up a such an important part of me?” I didn’t tell anyone about these feelings because changing my job was such an OBVIOUS solution to the stress in our lives.
Spoiler alert: I was missing the point!
This point that took me precisely six months to figure out is that my corporate job provided no meaning to my life. It wasn’t a bad company, or bad people, it was just a bad fit. It was totally out of alignment with my unique passions. The constant “bad” stress was the universe signaling me, okay smacking me! But the signal wasn’t about giving up a part of me, letting go of my career dreams, or even taking a step back. I needed to chase a new meaning, take on new challenges, and guess what? Still be stressed.
Taking calls at 6am/pm for something you are deeply and personally connected with? Not so bad. Traveling away from your family for a couple of days to pursue an opportunity to grow? Manageable. (But let’s be real, vacations are sacred territory.)
If you are asking yourself, should you take that promotion knowing it will add more stress? Well, if you take the promotion for the extra dough and an obligatory sense of ladder-climbing then your heart will tell you – this isn’t healthy. If you are avoiding a new, but meaningful, challenge because you fear the added stress – this also isn’t healthy.
To all the busy working Moms out there feeling bad about feeling stress: chase that meaning and don’t avoid challenges.
And, for anyone interested, working freelance and “gigging” is most definitely a stress upgrade from that corporate job.
Want to check out that Ted Talk? Full video here.