The more successful one is, the more stressful one's life becomes. Every new promotion means added responsibility and added stress. The challenge is how to handle that stress.
"Every successful person has learned to handle stress well," says Dr. Woodson Merrell, of Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. "It's those with a positive outlook on stressful situations who decrease their risk of heart disease, whereas those with increased rage from stress have increased risk of heart disease."
Unless one is a newborn infant or a Buddhist monk, to greater or lesser degrees one has stress in one's life. In school, it is the stress of a big test, pimples and finding a prom date. In college, it's about the big test, pimples, prom dates and getting a decent job after graduation. And while at the time it all seems very stressful, one finds out later that they were only on a nodding acquaintance with stress. It isn't until you get a job, start earning your own way and, eventually, supporting a family and moving up the career ladder, that you not only get to know stress, but stress moves right in, takes your favorite chair and even raids your refrigerator in the middle of the night.
Yet most people, whether they realize it or not, need a certain amount of stress. In the right amount, it can give people an edge. Keep them sharp, awake, alert. After all, imagine a stress-free life. Rocking in a hammock somewhere, feeling the ocean breeze waft over you as you sip a fruity rum drink. Sounds pretty good, right? Maybe. Imagine living like that all the time. Being that laid-back will not help you succeed, pay your kid's college tuitions, get you that corner office or that black Porsche 911 you've always wanted.
Conversely, living in a constant state of aggravation isn't such a hot idea either. Constant stress produces high levels of cortisol, which has been shown to impair cognitive functioning and weaken the immune system. Not only will it have a negative effect on one's health, but it can also make one a real jerk. What's the point in living a permanently stressed-out, albeit successful, life, if one drives away friends and loved ones, and dies of a heart attack at an early age?
The ideal, then, is to have just enough stress that one stays focused; but to also have an outlet that can regulate it and keep it from overtaking one's life. The problem is that many so-called stress reducers can do more harm than good--especially if, like stress, they are not taken in moderate amounts.