Stress and Travel: Using Stress as a Positive Tool

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Stress and Travel: Using Stress as a Positive Tool

This piece has been taken and adapted from a much longer blog post related to managing low mood and negative thoughts while travelling.

Stress can be used as a positive tool in travel and life. However, in today's society we generally spend a lot of time and effort avoiding it. As a result, we've come to a point where we’re now immensely stress-averse.

We’ve come to see it as something that’s downright bad. And it’s true: stress is never nice and in extremes it can lead to really negative consequences.

Yet, it’s also evident that at low levels, real good can come of it too. 

I recently watched a video of a Rabbi talking about lobsters in this context. It was random, but cool...and hugely relevant.

So, apparently a lobster is a soft, squidgy animal that resides in a hard outer shell. As the lobster grows it gets too big for the shell and, like a button that pops off your jeans when they’re too tight, it becomes uncomfortable under such pressure, strain and stress.

At such a time the lobster retreats under the safety of a rock, sheds its old, overly undersized shell and waits until a new one forms. Then, complete with its shiny new shell, the lobster ventures forth stress free, having grown as a result of its ordeal.

 Here I am having just fallen off a moped in Cambodia. Hilarious for any one watching, stressful (& embarrassing...) for me! In hindsight, it may have been a good thing! Stress can be a fantastic tool for self-development and may be exactly what makes travel so powerful.

Here I am having just fallen off a moped in Cambodia. Hilarious for any one watching, stressful (& embarrassing...) for me! In hindsight, it may have been a good thing! Stress can be a fantastic tool for self-development and may be exactly what makes travel so powerful.

Compare this to a modern day human approach. We feel uncomfortable, under pressure- stressed. However, rather than accepting the problem, finding a place of safety and waiting for the discomfort to pass, we search frantically for a way to get rid of it. Maybe we get prescribed some medication or a short term course of therapy.

Essentially, in our angst, we hurry to feel better and so opt for a quick fix: the fastest method available of reverting to our previous state of contentedness.

However, it’s a bit like the lobster taking a pill to shrink its squidgy interior. Ultimately, there’s a danger that we deny ourselves the chance to grow. Of course, this approach is often warranted and I definitely don’t wish to question the need for medication and therapy- they’re hugely important.

However, I also think we should acknowledge the extraordinary power of coming up against something challenging and coming through it, growing as a result. 

Reminding ourselves of this idea and seeing issues in this light may be helpful in and of itself. Sometimes it takes a shift in thinking- a positive reframing - to help us overcome an issue. Changing our relationship with our problems, though never straight-forward, can be a good way of getting through them.

I’ve used the analogy before of learning to ride a bike. The first time you take those stabilisers off you wobble around and fall over countless times. It’s difficult and it hurts. But, having mastered the art of two wheel travel, new possibilities are opened! You’re faster, more agile and come away with a great sense of pride.

The same is true of travel. It can be horrendously difficult at times: you’ll wobble around, fall over and possible get hurt every now and again. Yet, when you get through the challenges everything changes: you’re stronger, more resilient and every thing feels that little bit easier.

For me, this is where the power of travel really sits: the reason it has such a profound influence on people’s lives. The struggles, practical, physical and emotional, all help you to grow and come away significantly developed as an individual.   

Ultimately, emotional struggles on the road, including stress, though undeniably challenging and uncomfortable in the moment, may ironically be beneficial in the long run.