If Stress is Like a Rotten Guest

Senior gentleman holding a rotten fishIn response to my last post (Five Types of Stress), Slavko from Ottawa wrote: “For many people, stress is an uninvited ‘guest’, and it frequently stays longer than people expect”.

My father, born and raised in Amsterdam, always used to say: “A guest, like a fish, starts to stink after the third day“. True to his ancestral teachings, he refrained from staying anywhere as a guest for more than three days. (Alas, his views were not of much help to him as he co-hosted the never-ending assortment of overseas guests who would stay in our Tel Aviv home for months on end at my mother’s generous invitation. Herself born and raised in rural Saskatchewan, she thought nothing of it).

Turns out that several other cultures have similar proverbs, which suggests that there’s some deep wisdom in this notion that too much of a seemingly good thing can become problematic. Indeed, stress is like that guest: a little bit of it is energizing and vital and fun, but too much of it can feel rotten and, well, stinky.

So what can we learn from the world of hosting that we can apply to stress resilience? I decided to take a fun stab at it, and here are five little sights I got when comparing hosting principles with stress resilience practices:

When hosting, only invite guests you really want to host in the first place. In the resilience arena, be very thoughtful about the kind of stressors you allow into your life.

In hosting, when someone asks if you can host their cousin for three weeks, it’s okay to say no (graciously). To be resilient, learn to say ‘no’ – graciously, respectively, and decisively.

When you host, maintain your healthy routines even when the endeavour places heavy demands on your time, attention, and effort. When it comes to being resilient, no matter how intense the demands on you, never sacrifice nurturing the things that keep you sane – your sleep, healthy eating, exercise, yoga, prayer, playing, reading, or taking a mini vacation.  It is up to you to bring equanimity into your life.

Even when you’re hosting a houseful of guests, keep your home tidy and clean or else chaos will take over. In the same way, to mauntain your resilient equanimity, remove clutter from your life and physical space. An organized environment helps calm the mind.

As a host, sometimes you need to have a frank conversation with your guests about how things are working (or not). You might even need to part ways with your guest (again, graciously). A true commitment to your resilience might require you to have frank conversations – with your boss, spouse, neighbor, or mechanic. In some relationships, you might actually need to hit the Eject button.

Finally, remember: your home is your castle and the same is true for your body and soul. Resilience requires you to take responsibility for ensuring that your mind and body remain sufficiently agile to handle all the pressures and demands that are inevitably placed on you.

Do you have any insights to add? If you do, please do share!


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