Stress & Adversity

Coping With Pain & Frustration

Have you ever seen a bird try to impress its friends? Of course not. Animals live with a very clear and perfectly programmed agenda in life. They are not trying to achieve social status, nor do they care what the other animals think of them. It is a human trait to create and struggle with stress – specifically, because it is inherently human to want to be better. Humans have the capacity to employ moral reasoning and weigh sacrifices and tradeoffs in light of achieving our goals. Thus, when we reach our potential, we celebrate not only what we have accomplished, but all that we had to give up to get there.

Is the stress along the way frustrating? Of course it is! However, the proper amount of stress and pain can be a great motivator. The challenge is trying to find the right balance where the stress will inspire us to be greater and strive for more – without breaking us.

In my upcoming book (due to be released later this year), I discuss the notion of processing stress as a positive force, rather than a debilitating one. Consider, for instance, a mother in the throes of labor. While the pain is excruciating, she willingly puts herself through it, knowing that it will yield the most incredible blessing – a child. The pain is physically grueling, but it is mentally and emotionally justified by what the end result will produce. This is an example of what the human spirit can accomplish when we take the time to think about ourselves, not simply as biological animals, but as growing and improving humans.

I often encourage my clients to rate their levels of stress from 1-10. This gives us the ability to think about just how bad the situation is. Sometimes, what a person thinks is a horrible day, may only be rated a 5 or 6. This realization helps them understand that perhaps it is not quite as bad as they initially thought. Additionally, by taking the time to think about one’s levels of pain and frustration, it gives a baseline that can then be monitored. As the hours, days and weeks progress, we can revisit the numbers to see whether they are improving over time. It does not always mean that one’s situation will change, however, with a focus on personal growth, the way in which we respond to stress can change. Therefore, as our threshold to tolerate stress improves, we may report feeling happier overall.

When we operate with clear goals, then the frustrations that we meet along the way are simply the price we pay to achieve our dreams. It does not make the stress or anxiety go away, but it certainly makes life more manageable.

To contact Ari Sytner for counseling or interventions and to help in times of crisis, please click here.