What Goldilocks Can Teach Us About Stress

How to get the pressure “just right”

During what might be one of the most stressful times we’ll face as a society, we wanted to let you in on a little secret: there is a Goldilocks zone of stress that is just right.

It turns out Goldilocks (yes, that little girl with blonde hair parading around a bear’s house, testing out the food and beds to find out what worked for her) is a Principle, where one knows when something is either too much or too little. So, let’s take work as an example. Many of us are either suffering from too much stress (e.g., working from the kitchen table with myriad distractions) or too little of it (not working, period, and killing your will to live while doom scrolling). The solution? Finding the “just-right” amount of stress.

“WTF would I want any stress at all?!” you might ask. To answer that, let’s first look at what it is and what it’s intended to do for us.

What is stress, anyway?

Stress exists on a spectrum. The original intent of stress was to serve as the body’s alert system to keep humans safe in emergencies. Our ancestors often faced stressful events that generated a “fight or flight” response. They would run for their lives, fight for their lives, or freeze and play dead (like Leo in The Revenant). Life was simpler back then, and our ancestors were not evolved enough to experience longer-term or chronic stress. They tended to simply live or die.

Moving into the modern age, work (or lack thereof) serves as a perfect example to discuss how much stress is just right, especially right now, when many people are constantly managing disproportionate stressors.

Delphis Pressure Performance stress curve
Are you rusting out?

If you don’t have enough stress – when you’re not working, stuck in a job you don’t like, or you don’t have any meaningful goals to deliver, you run the risk of “bore out” or “rust out” – a “too little” phenomenon where you feel uninspired, unmotivated, and apathetic. Let’s face it – humans were not designed to do nothing. We’re meant to be active, engaged, and have purpose.

Are you burning out?

On the other side of the curve is burnout. We grew up in an overloaded culture, where “keeping busy” is a badge of honour. We hustle to make money and keep up with the Joneses. But there is a point where the pressure becomes “too much,” and we risk burnout, a serious state of long-term stress where we spend too long in the evolutionary flight-or-fight response, eventually hitting physical and mental breakdown. While we’re meant to stay active, we are not designed to produce 24/7.

The risk of living on either side of this spectrum for too long is a slew of negative physical, mental and behavioural responses, and eventually, maybe even depression or anxiety.source.

  • 77% of people say stress negatively affects their physical health
  • 73% of people say stress negatively affects their mental health
  • 60% of clients who come to Manifest report being better able to manage stress after their third session.
Find your sweet spot
The stress sweet spot

We’ve talked about the negative extremes of stress – having too little or too much – but what is the stress sweet spot, that “just right” amount? Otherwise known as eustress, it’s a positive stress response that releases chemicals into the body and produces positive feelings. Having just the right amount of stress makes you feel inspired, content, motivated and excited. This is the stuff that gets you jacked up, in a good way.

The problem with discerning what gives you eustress versus distress is that it’s based on your perception, not the event itself. What one person finds to be positive stress – that feeling of excitement before going on stage; another will find to be negative stress – the dread of public speaking.

The stress solution

Goldilocks, like our cavemen ancestors, existed in a binary world. Their decisions were motivated by comfort (or, for cavemen, what we call homeostasis, aka stability). Our lives are significantly more complicated: factor in family and childhood history, multiply by mortgage payments and divide by demanding bosses…what we’re saying is, if you are starting to notice the impacts of chronic stress or rust out, it doesn’t hurt to ask for help to sort it all out.

Manifest can help you deal with the stress specific to you in your life by analyzing your situation, providing you with an action plan to deal with controllable stress, and building up your resiliency to change your perceptions around uncontrollable stress. Here are some of the ways we do that:

  • Learn specifically tailored skills, tools, and resources to manage and conquer your stress in the moments you feel most overwhelmed.
  • Our clinical team is trained in the art of cognitive restructuring; if we can’t help you change the stressors in your life, we can help you perceive, experience or relate to them differently.
  • Learn the emotional intelligence to rethink the way you think, instead of existing automatically within your experience of the stressors in your life.
  • Be more authentic; with the help of a professional, make plans to adapt your environment to align with your values and long-term life goals.
  • Learn to edit your social environment and develop more meaningful connections (maybe post-pandemic).
  • Positively reframe your situations to find internal gratification sources (positive self-talk, personal validation) versus seeking external gratification (seeking praise from your boss).

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Productivity12Self Knowledge26Work8

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