你的压力有多大? / How Stressed Are You?

你的压力有多大?

让我们先看看Rohan在alearningaday.com上发表的一篇博客:

有意义的焦虑

上周,我们了解到,有人发现压力并不像我们普遍认为的那样消极。相反,它能预测出有意义的人生。耶鲁大学的研究人员发现,之前那种消极看法严重损害我们的生活质量。

如此,我们要怎样才能扭转对压力的看法呢?

在这项研究中,调查人员请一些参试人员进入实验室,等待面试他们梦寐以求的工作。在气氛凝重的等候区,研究人员告诉部分参试者一定要重视如何才能吸引面试官的注意力。而另一组参试者则被要求思考这项工作如何才能与自身的价值观相联系,并通过思考自己看重这份工作的原因来抵消焦虑。

结果,“有意义”的一组面试得分较高,并且表现得更加昂扬振奋。

类似的研究还发现,要扭转对压力的看法,就要深挖并了解我们在乎的根源,认识到有意义的人生也是有压力的人生,并从此拥抱压力。

压力和逆境都是学习、提升、表达个人价值观的机会,更重要的是,它能树立起我们接受挑战的信心。

感觉压力山大时,要反向思考。“要认识到压力并不代表你出了问题,而代表你在乎的事出了问题,这是一个让你思考到底在乎什么的良机。”(大意如此)——健康心理学家Kelly McGonigal

(博客摘录完)

压力是当今社会的一个重要因素,医生说它对我们的生理和心理健康都危害极大。

因此也很容易得出结论,我们在生活中应尽量减少或消除压力。但有一个小问题,若要消除压力几乎是不可能的。前面博客摘录中提及的最新研究就指出,消除压力并不是真正的解决办法。

这个讨论让我想起在美国念高中时,曾拜读过的毛选《矛盾论》。其实,关于应对压力的理论也相当于各种悖论和矛盾的集合。

这项最新研究还指出,压力是体验有意义的、充实的人生和事业的必经平台,且无论在个人还是社会层面上都能得到证实。

因此,压力本身并没有毒,关键还要看如何看待和处理它。这并没有看起来那么显而易见。

和压力类似的是摩擦力*。摩擦力太大会起火;但摩擦力不够就产生不了牵引力。压力过大会把人压垮;但压力不足会导致动力不足,这种基于意义的动力可以发挥比物质奖励大得多的威力。

最近,我小学毕业班的同学在芝加哥附近举行了第50次聚会,我没能参加,但应邀发送了一段视频、几张照片和致同学的一封信。有位同学把这次周末聚会的录像剪辑成精美的短片,上传到Vimeo。回忆当年,不论是我自己还是其他同学,都在发言中表达出一个共同的观点——“那时的日子要比现在简单得多。”

小时候我有一个错觉,认为只要长大了,很多有关人生的重大问题就会迎刃而解。我不了解别的银发族怎么想,反正到现在我自己仍觉得问题多过答案。

与此相关,压力会随着生命递增而不是递减。压力的一个表象是时间。每年、每月、每周、每天——压力的产生比以往任何时候都要更快。信息及其他技术的革命性进步导致万事万物的速度和节拍都在加快,意味着我们生活和工作中的“任务清单”比以往的有效期更短。

从前面那篇博客中我领悟到,应对压力的最佳策略就是严格反思。不要把压力和垃圾一起丢掉,因为它绝不会消失。相反,应该定期找个安静的时间,反思刺激的来源,以及它们与你真正看重(或不看重)的东西之间的关联。同时,还要建立攀登眼前各种高峰的自信。

自信不是人类的固有品质,它忽高忽低,需要定期打气和加油。

*(上学时我的生物和化学学得不错,但物理很渣。各位粉丝,如果此处的类比存在着科学瑕疵,欢迎拍砖。)

How Stressed Are You?

“Meaningful anxiety

Last week, we found that stress was found to be a predictor of a meaningful life — contrary to our generally negative perception. Researchers at Yale found that this negative perception greatly decreased the quality of our lives.

So, how do we go about switching our perception of stress?

In a study, researchers had people come into a lab about to go into a job interview for the job of their dreams. In the stressful waiting area, researchers told some participants to focus how they were going to impress the interviewers. Another group was asked to think about how the job was connected to their values and to counter anxiety by thinking about why they cared about the job so much.

The ‘meaning’ group were rated higher and were found to be more inspiring and uplifting.

Similar studies have found that the way to switch our perception of stress is to embrace it by digging deep to understand why we care and, then, to recognize that a meaningful life is also a stressful life.

Stress, like adversity, is an opportunity to learn, grow and express our values. And, most importantly, to trust that we can handle the challenge.

When you’re feeling stressed out, just make contact with the paradox of stress. Recognize that stress is not a signal that there’s something wrong with you but a sign that something you care about is at stake, an opportunity to think about what you care about. — Kelly McGonigal (paraphrased)“

–Rohan, A Learning a Day

Stress is major factor in modern life. Doctors tell us it has a huge impact on both our physical and mental health.

It’s easy, then, to reach the conclusion that we should reduce or eliminate stress in our lives. There’s one small problem: it’s impossible to eliminate stress. The new research referred to in the Learning a Day blog above suggests that removing stress is not the answer anyway.

This discussion reminds me of reading “On Contradiction” by Chairman Mao Zedong when I was in school in the U.S.. Theories surrounding how to deal with stress amount to a bundle of paradox and contradiction.

Stress, according to the new research, is a necessary platform for experiencing meaningful and fulfilling lives and careers. The research suggests that evidence for this exists at an individual as well as societal level.

It is therefore not stress per se that is toxic. The key is how we relate to and process it. This is not as obvious as it seems.

An analogy might be friction*. Too much friction starts a fire; not enough means you gain no traction. Too much stress can cause someone to burn out; not enough deprives them of motivation based on meaning, which is much more powerful than motivation based on material rewards.

My primary school graduating class recently held a 50th reunion, near Chicago. I was unable to join, but I accepted the invitation to submit a short video, some photos, and a letter to classmates. One classmate put together a very nice short video of the reunion weekend and posted it on Vimeo. In reflecting on my own thoughts about those days, and listening to those of other classmates, one common theme came through again and again “Those were so much simpler times.”

One of the misconceptions I had in early childhood was that growing up would yield answers to all the big questions about life. I don’t know about other gray haired people, but I still have a lot more questions than answers.

Related to that, stress builds as life goes on, rather than tapering off. One aspect of it is temporal. One year, one month, one week, one day — they all go by much faster than they used to. The pace and tempo of everything has increased due to revolutionary progress in IT and other technologies. That means our “to do” list has a much shorter shelf life than in times past, at work or at home.

My take-away from the above blog is that our best strategy in dealing with stress is one of disciplined self-reflection. Don’t try to throw stress out with the garbage. It won’t go. Instead, regularly find some quiet time, step back and think about the source of the stressors, and how they relate to what’s really important to you, and what’s not. At the same time, work on building your self-confidence in climbing whatever mountain lies ahead.

Self-confidence is not a fixed quality in people. It ebbs and flows, and needs topping up on a regular basis.

*(In school days I did well in biology and chemistry but very poorly in physics. So, dear readers, if this analogy is scientifically flawed, please feel free to speak up!)


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