I recently asked my network, ‘What is the Opposite of Stress?’ As you might expect there was a wide variety of answers. Some folks shared a single word, whilst others shared a scenario. The answers grouped into several broad categories:
1. Relaxed, Calm and Peaceful
This category received the highest number of votes. Many people mentioned relaxing on a beach, often accompanied by drinks with paper umbrellas. I often ask people to visualise serene or peaceful scenes to counteract the pressures of stress. When we think of ‘peaceful’, we envision a lowered heart rate, a oneness with nature and an absence of tension. For many people, this nirvana is definitely not in an urban environment.
Somehow, to be peaceful means to be separated from everyday ordinariness. This raises the question, is this opposite of stress achievable at work or in our daily lives?
2. Engaged, In Flow, Inspired or Empowered
The second highest group of responses were words which indicated that the opposite of stress was when one was moving forward in a positive frame of mind, actively engaged in work and productive. Contrary to the previous definition this picture paints a visual of someone fully participating in their daily life, deriving pleasure and enjoyment from the task at hand. Several people talked about being ‘in the moment’ and living ‘one day at time.’ Much of the recent research into Happiness talks about the state of mindfulness, being fully present with what one is doing. This is nicely summed up in the quote:
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” ~ Alice Morse Earle
This definition seems to me to be quite compatible with modern life. However, I’ve found that this is the thing that many of us are seeking in work and never finding. The topic of finding ‘flow’ in daily life comes up over and over again in my coaching work.
3. Dead or Unemployed
As an interesting aside, there were quite a few folks who joked that the opposite of stress was either dead or unemployed. Are you one of those people who believe that there is no success without stress? This is a classic definition of the stress personality type that I call the ‘Medal Wearer’. For the Medal Wearer, stress is a badge of honour, it is a symbol of having ‘made it’. When this personality type finally hits the ‘big time’, stress is all just part of the trappings of the good life. Success equals stress, therefore reducing stress might just reduce one’s success. Is it any wonder that all the folks who joked in this way were men?
I was very surprised that no one answered ‘Normality’ or ‘Everyday Life’. In my mind, stress is an abnormal condition, that could impact us for a short period of time and then leave. But then, my stress personality is ‘Balancer,’ for me stress happens and then fades.
A final thank-you to those folks who reminded me that the opposite of stressed is desserts. Yep, DESSERTS is definitely STRESSED spelled backwards!
What do you think is the opposite of stress?