Good Stress

I'm writing from Washington, DC this week. Just got here after spending a few days at my alma mater, James Madison University, in Virginia. I've been lucky enough to be invited to speak in some of my old professor's classes these last few years. I've talked about things like how to find your values and let them guide you, and how to be okay with "failure" and not having a plan. But when my prof asked for my topic this time, I told him I wanted to just cut right to it and talk about anxiety - that's really what's been at the heart of all the other talks. 

Sadly, more and more young people are experiencing anxiety these days. My professor sees every new group of students come in just a little more disconnected than the last. They've grown up with iPhones and high expectations, and I knew this topic would hit home. And hit home, it did.

It's such a pleasure to be able to connect to young people in this way, and a huge growth experience for me. The irony is that public speaking - like most people - brings on a bunch of anxiety for me! But as I told them in my speech this week, we need some stress in our lives. If you think about physical exercise, we intentionally stress our muscles to make them stronger. In that same way, if our lives were super easy and stress-free, we wouldn't really grow much as people. It's these experiences that push you, that give you butterflies in your stomach, that can be full of personal development and growth.

Our bodies and minds are always talking to one another, but we can help control the message. For example, are you always saying "I'm so stressed" like it's a bad thing? What if you acknowledged your stress, but recognized the growth and motivation it was providing instead of letting it snowball into something worse? Remember that anxiety and excitement feel the same in the body - but we decide how to read it. We can use our breath to tell our minds that we're okay, and use our minds to tell our bodies we're okay. Notice how you interpret the messages that go back and forth. 

When I first started speaking at JMU I'd get super nervous. I still get nervous, but it fades much more quickly. And each time I feel more empowered to do it again - there's measurable growth there. I'm eager to find new venues to share my story and my tips for anxiety. You guys have already heard most of the content of the talks I gave this week, so I just wanted to remind you of these highlights today. Notice the way you interpret the messages in your body. Notice the dialogue in your head and the way you label the feelings in your body. Notice the mindset you choose to move through your day with. That is what will shape your experience the most - and it's up to you. Take responsibility for that, and you can create the reality you want. 

Much love. 


Here’s me talking to a group of 300 freshman, and they were mostly paying attention.

Here’s me talking to a group of 300 freshman, and they were mostly paying attention.