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Imagine this: playing video games all day, no demands on time, no requests for chores, no expectations. Sounds like living the life, right?! Nope. It’s bad y’all. Without some structure to provide boundaries and give a sense of meaning, the depth and quality of life will stagnate. And that’s not good for anybody. 

People need more purposeful activities in their day. This will only happen with some stress. The key is to create good stress and not distress. The difference is subtle, but very powerful.

Good stress is the stress of knowing that you’ll have to withhold something fun (such as playing video games) to go to a job you either like or that pays well. (Note, though, that being forced to go to a job you hate and pays poorly could lead to distress.)

In other words, good stress is essentially choosing to fulfill responsibilities instead of just doing leisurely activities. But don’t fall into the trap of all work and no play. Work and life can be tricky to navigate, which is why we are fans of work-life integration as opposed to work-life balance.

Currently, lots of people have WAAAAAY too much free time on their hands, and the result is that they are now (for lack of a better term) wallowing. Their wallowing puts them more into their “head.” As a result, their mood and sense of purpose and accomplishment will plummet, leading to lower self-esteem, etc. See how the unstructured pleasure cycle is detrimental to mental health?

One of the best ways to combat this is to put up reasonable, age-appropriate obstacles that create good stress and will encourage us to get out of the house and into meaningful activity.

For example, program the internet/wifi to be disabled from 9am to 6pm. This prevents folks from gaming or binge watching TV all day and compels them to do other things that interest them (including working.) Reclaiming your autonomy is a fantastic way to boost mental health and promote self-care. That is not always what everyone immediately understands, though… 

Consider the above scenario. Isn’t it a sign of love to provide good things to those you care about? The truth is that it’s complicated. Context is everything here, but we offer a few thoughts to consider:

Any fixation on the notion that providing free internet, housing, etc. is “love” can be countered with the goal of independence. Providing free room and board isn’t wrong at all, but ultimately it’s not helpful towards building self-agency. And in the long run, that is not the same as “love”.

It is in those moments of being allowed to make our own choices (and take responsibility for them) that good stress flourishes. It’s just like the analogy of sharpening a sword. Choosing to engage with good stress sharpens the sword rather than dulling or breaking it. And with a sharper sword, it becomes a lot easier to slice off more and more of the life you really find purposeful. 

There is no shortage of contagious stress in life. Reintegrating mental health into your modern lifestyle looks like focusing your energy on good stress, which produces autonomy and purpose. 

At Simply Psych, we know a thing or two about the stress of owning and running your own practice. Juggling it all is impossible! We are happy to help you manage your practice (thus decreasing your stress-levels), so that you can actively choose good stress. When therapists reclaim their autonomy and purpose, burnout decreases and patients feel better. Visit www.SimplyPsych.com to learn more.

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