When I was a kid, one of my close family members used to describe how stressed (s)he was every single day, multiple times a day. This daily lament was accompanied by this person rubbing their eyes emphatically and scruffing their hair so that it looked like a crazy mop perched atop their head. I remember helplessly watching this uncomfortable-looking sight, thinking: "I never want to be stressed." To this day, just hearing the word makes me slump.
But in the US, contrary to what we say, I think that we enjoy stress. Let me rephrase that. We enjoy being able to say that we're stressed. Having the type of manic life to justify a statement like "I'm stressed" (or "busy," another favourite) is to wear a merit badge for the Type-A Scout Troop. Many even confuse it with being successful and fulfilled. It's part of the constant pressure that we (secretly love to) put on ourselves and a powerful one-upping tool. I admit that I hold a controversial view on the topic, but I hold it quite firmly and without regret. So, you can imagine my satisfaction when I learned that one of my business heroes Mindy Kaling feels the same. Here, she sums it up with equal parts hilariousness and perfection:
"I do not think stress is a legitimate topic of conversation, in public anyway. No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn’t conversation. It’ll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say,
'Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake.'"
However, after revealing my loathing of the word to Carolyn, I was met with a surprising rebuttal. Stress has a completely different effect on her, and she (wait for it)... likes stress?!
Next up: she'll share her thoughts on how a stress-shift-in-perspective can be a coping mechanism.
In the meantime, what do you think? Am I being too cynical? Can stress be helpful?