How Good Stress Grows You and Bad Stress Harms You

By Christian Ray Flores – Austin, TX, USA


Not most of us, but all of us will experience stress throughout our lives. It’s woven into our existence whether we like it or not, like bad pop music. You can try to escape it; it will make its way into our ears.

The trick is differentiating between good stress that grows you and bad stress that harms you. If we avoid all stress – we’ll never grow. If we tolerate bad stress – we’ll eventually hit a wall. If we keep tolerating it long-term – we end up with burnout. Today, I’ll unpack two powerful techniques to destress your life instantly, one of many I use to help people get unstuck and thrive for life.

How is good stress good anyway? The apostle James seemed to think that good stress helps us grow. Since James was an apostle, I choose to agree with him and look to understand how this works.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:2-4

You can recognize good stress because it’s specific to a real obstacle. Life is full of changes, and you need new skills to deal with every one of them, so your wonderfully created brain is signaling you to get ready for the new challenge ahead so you can overcome it and be victorious.

Life is a sequence of constant changes; our tendency is to treat disorder as a threat and attempt to bring life back to stability without changing anything. A more mature and effective way is to recognize disorder and create stability through a reordering that allows for stability in the new context. You’ve never been where you are now – so welcome good stress with open arms, It’s here to help you.

I’ve never before been a father of three daughters who have left the house. All three of them have strong characters and tend to ignore some of the sage advice I lovingly (okay, maybe not always so lovingly) offer. In fact, they ignore my advice quite often – which stresses me out because of this primal-protective-father-thing that comes from a place deep down inside that I’m having trouble turning off (okay, I’m having trouble even turning it down). I need a new set of skills to parent three daughters who are out of the house, living their individual journeys. This mobilizes me to read books, seek guidance, get feedback, and pray at a whole different level.

In other words, by accepting this new disorder and the stress that is sending me this signal as a prompt to reorder my life by acquiring new perspectives and skills and changing my tactics, I will reach that place of “lacking nothing” James is talking about. I’m not sure about the nothing part, but I’ll take James at his word since it’s also the Word of God.

What makes bad stress harmful is this: It’s not specific to something you can assign the term “opportunity” to. It can be persistent and not dissipate quickly. It can become chronic. The worst kind. It does not help you, mobilize you, or equip you. Instead, it paralyzes you and robs you of your joy. This is the kind of stress you must defeat, or it will, eventually, defeat you, turning into the much-dreaded burnout. It is not something you want to come even close to in life. Here’s why.

It depletes you socially. You become more irritable and harder to get along and collaborate with. Relationships and home, work, and community suffer.

Your capacity for creativity or innovation is greatly reduced. You become more fragile and indecisive, entering into survival mode, which is the opposite of growth mode. This means obstacles you can easily overcome in growth mode become overwhelming.

Perfectly talented and driven people find themselves in that place of being stuck this way. I have a student who, on paper, was crushing it professionally, enjoying a loving family and building a better life, but he had a weak spot where long-term family drama was really affecting his life. The kind we tend to push to the background because we don’t know what to do with it. After a few days of implementing my quick win techniques, some of which I’ll share below, he had major breakthroughs with his extended family that lifted that dark cloud hanging over his otherwise exciting life. In his words, “It is so simple! It’s like us guys, we just keep wondering without asking for directions.” 

Now, to two powerful, quick-win techniques I promised to introduce.

Gratitude Practice

This can be done in many different ways. Here are a few options for you to get started:Start a gratitude journal, first daily and after a while, weekly.
It can be as simple as a morning entry of five things that went well the day before.
Send a quick text to one person a day thanking them for something.
Set up a coffee or meal with someone you want to thank more thoroughly.
Start every prayer with thanksgiving. Be specific and detailed. Go deep.
Write out your high-level biography from the perspective of gratitude.
SavoringGo out to nature and savor the sights, sounds, and colors you experience.
Do something you enjoy: music, conversation, food, doing nothing.
Get with an old friend and remember moments you enjoyed together
Go on walks daily with a friend or spouse just to be together with no agenda.
Slow down. Breathe. Be present. Be aware.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8

These practices are simple but not simplistic, and they will change your life if you invest in them. You can build on them and change them, but you must master them as a habit and a lifestyle if you are to “taste” their transformative effect.

I firmly believe you and I were created to benefit from good stress, which makes us grow and thrive, but we should equip ourselves against bad stress – the kind that corrodes, paralyzes, and prevents us from reaching our full potential in serving those around us.

One of my students used a combination of savoring and Sabbathing (another powerful practice) to reignite his professional life as well as his marriage. The two practices I describe above are the tip of the iceberg I hope will get you excited about what is possible.

How do good stress and bad stress play out in your life? Are you embracing the former and equipped to slay the latter?

If you’re having trouble with bad stress or burnout and are serious about your growth – schedule a free clarity call here and mention the code “DToday2023.” You’ll receive special VIP treatment from me, lots of, as stated – clarity, and if you qualify to join my coaching program – unbeatable bonuses and benefits.

Embrace good stress. Never tolerate bad stress – learn how to crush it.

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Christian Ray Flores

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