What is positive stress?
Any stress that pushes you to do your best and improve is positive stress. We all need a push to improve. Without such a push, we just fumble through life without accomplishing anything. For success in both worlds, stress is necessary, and there are many examples of positive stress in both our spiritual and material lives.
An example of a spiritual form of positive stress is the fear of the Hellfire. As Muslims, we believe that the Hellfire is a real creation of Allah, and it is the final destination of those who consciously reject Allah and His message. It is also a temporary destination for those who choose to live lives of sin, despite believing. Fear of the Hellfire keeps people from committing sins and avoiding obligations. This is a good type of stress if balanced with hope in Allah’s Mercy
This only becomes a negative form of stress if it is misunderstood or unbalanced. In some communities, the Hellfire is overemphasized and Paradise is rarely mentioned. Youth growing up in which communities grow up under a lot of stress to be perfect, and perfection is impossible. The result is that many young people lose hope in Allah’s Mercy, they crack under too much stress of His Punishment, become despondent and fall into a life of sin and hopelessness. Balancing fear and hope is key in making this a positive stress in the lives of believers.
We all face situations in which we are tempted to commit great evil, and nobody is watching us except Allah. If our faith is strong enough, then at such moments the stress of thinking about displeasing Allah is enough to prevent us from committing such major sins. If not, then it is at least strong enough to make us feel guilty and make us repent from our sins, as Allah is the Accepter of all repentance.
This is a good example of a positive form of stress that we cannot afford to live without. We need this stress to keep us from making mistakes that can harm us in both worlds.
Likewise, in our worldly lives, there are many examples of positive stress. A good example of this is the concept of deadlines. Deadlines exist to keep us stressed enough to get our work done on time. Without deadlines, many people will never get their work done ever. As someone who has spent the past few years in a management position, I know that deadlines are critical for successfully managing a team. Yes, they do stress employees out, but it is stress that motivates them to work and get things done, and this is positive stress.
Likewise, bills are a positive form of stress. If people did not have bills to pay and things to buy, they wouldn’t work. People who don’t need to work often end up lazy, unproductive and wasting their lives away. Knowing that you have bills to pay at the end of the month is a positive stress that leads you to excel at your career and work hard, and the world benefits from hardworking people.
The desire to fulfil your dreams and goals before death is a positive form of stress. Knowing that our time in this world is temporary pushes us to seize the day and make each day count. In this way, we strive to accomplish our goals and make the most of our lives. Without the fear of death, there would be no urgency to seize the day and make it count.
I hope this has made you realize that you do not need to eliminate stress from your life altogether. Embrace the positive stressors in your life, and accept them as a motivational source to help you excel and be your best. It is only negative stress that needs to be eliminated or reduced significantly.
The advantages of Positive Stress can be summarized as the following:
- They get us to work
- They push us to be our best
- They protect us from sin and laziness
- They give us a reason to live
- Without stress, nothing would ever get done
This article is an extract from Abu Muawiyah’s upcoming book on Stress Management, available early 2016.