Why Do I Feel So Bad if I’m “Just” Stressed?

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” – Bruce Lee

A certain amount of stress is inevitable. Just the ordinary task of getting up in the morning and getting ready for whatever our work is for that day gets our adrenaline going as we attend to the details of beginning our day. You’ve probably heard that there’s a difference between stress and eustress. Eustress refers to the kind of acceleration in behaviors and feelings associated with something positive. Stress is generally associated with unwanted or burdensome tasks.

Some years ago, the matter of stress became a general topic of conversation, and we finally had a name to call what we encounter on a daily basis in terms of an increased and prolonged demand on our capacities. Over time, however, the concept of stress has changed in a way that diminishes its impact and/or the capabilities of those who experience it. Now, we often refer to stress as “just” stress. In so doing we do ourselves and each other a disservice.

Most of us prefer a somewhat predictable existence interspersed with a number of self-determined unique experiences. However, we live in an increasingly complex and unpredictable world. Matters of finances, employment, and safety have recently reminded us that we are vulnerable to world events. This combination of stressors can create a great deal of stress, which can lead to feelings of depression and/or anxiety if not attended to.

If stress isn’t addressed in its early stages, it can lead to a preoccupation with worry or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. There are many positive ways to deal with stress and to avoid or manage depression and anxiety. In therapy, you can learn the skills needed to do so in a safe environment that honors your experience and speaks directly to it. You can learn how to create your own “well-being practice” through a combination of managing the amount of stress you allow in your life, learning how to deal with stress as it arises, and choosing supportive actions such as mindfulness and relaxation practices, Emotional Freedom Techniques, and Compassionate Communication. These activities will strengthen you in general and help you to stay calmly rooted when storms arise.

Therapy is the bridge that can help you learn to “bend like the willow”.