After a slightly too early wake-up call this morning, I found myself a bit foggy while making my way to work. I was spending most of my mental energy on trying to rouse myself and get ready and prepared to tackle the day ahead of me. On my way up to my 2nd-floor workplace, I ran into a colleague in the elevator. I asked him how his evening was, and after a rather long pause, one I felt was packed with contemplation, he responded, “You know, it was pretty stress-less.”
For some reason, his words really perked me up. The long pause before his answer gave me time to already conjure up ideas about what he would reply with. But when the phrase “stress-less” came out of his mouth, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had ever heard that combined adjective before, and honestly if I’d ever thought of describing a moment or feeling as “stress-less”.
It got me thinking, sometimes a dangerous activity, about how the antithesis of this compiled term is the unfortunately popular, “stressful”, and how often I have heard it and used this word over the past many years. Stressful was once a part of my vocabulary; an overused descriptor of my day, week, or internal emotion. Stressful became a crutch and the first word I pulled out when I felt slightly busy or off-balanced.
In my current practice of bringing more mindfulness and fulfillment into my life, I have noticed that my language is a crucial factor in how I feel and act throughout my day. All of our language and vocabulary is packed with little indicators of how we view ourselves, our situation and the world as a whole.
When you really break down the habitual terms you use and the emotions and assumptions behind them, you will find that those casual phrases pack a pretty substantial punch and have a lot of control over the things you feel and energy you put out.
After taking time to reflect on my use of just this one word, “stressful”, I can slowly unravel the emotions and habits that were tethered to this type of vocabulary. When I thought I was using "stressful" as a descriptor, I was also using it as an activator, further guiding myself to act out of a place of stress. Categorizing myself as full of stress, was not only energetically debilitating but also fostered more opportunities for me to welcome stress and keep me in this agonizingly stressed state.
I mean, how many times has someone asked you about your day at work and in the quick flash that you ponder back to your busy day, you just blurt out "Stressful", or "Crazy", or “Oh, don’t even ask.” And maybe you think back later that day and notice that there was really just one morning meeting that put you off kilter and then the rest of those tense emotions created a domino effect of “stressfully” minded actions and moments. Pretty accurate, right?
Our words are not only descriptors, they also become determiners. They don’t just describe our past, they project and affect our future. Notice the emotions that come up when you use certain words, and I encourage you to think about whether those are the emotions you want to bring more of or less of into your life.
So sure, a packed workday could feel “stressful” but how about you phrase it as being “dynamic” or maybe saying that you were positively “challenged” by the day. And though I have quickly fallen in love with the “stressless” definer, how about we take stressout of the verbal equation altogether. Even having “stress” in there is still focusing on the amount of stress you do or do not feel. What if we used “calm” or “peaceful” or "relaxing”. Perhaps those terms don’t feel entirely true to that particular experience, but what is true are the affirmative emotions you will feel when you rephrase your negative thoughts and reactions into positive feelings and responses.
I welcome you to put more attention on your language and vocabulary today. What words or phrases are no longer serving you? Flip them to words that will inspire and uplift you and watch how your external environment will shift positively in response.