Dear Dream Tending and Deep Imagination Community,

April is stress awareness month. We, in the Dream Tending Community, want to shine some light onto the hot topic of stress.

I always grew up hearing that stress was bad for you. It inflames the system, it makes most illness worse, it lowers the immune system, and you should strive to have less of it in your life. And for many years I agreed with this. However, is it possible that stress is actually good for you? Is it possible that as Hans Selye says, “It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.”

My idea of stress and relationship to stress started to shift after watching Kelly McGonigal’s TedGlobal talk How to make stress your friend. McGonigal echo’s the inquiry, how can we change our reaction and relationship to stress?”

Research suggests, it is not stress that kills us; it is the belief that stress is bad for us that kills us. When we change our mind about how we view stress we can change how our body responds to stress. McGonigal encourages us to make stress our friend by viewing stress as helpful. A Harvard research study used stress tests and had people change how they perceive the body cues of stress to be for them while examining their bodies physiological responses to each mindset. And just like that, the bodies negative impacts started to dissipate when people changed how they viewed stress.

When we feel our heart pounding, are breathing faster, and starting to break into a sweat instead of considering this the feeling of anxiety and fear this can be reframed. What if these body cues are our bodies way of feeling more energized and more prepared to meet the challenge at hand? Based off this research and other studies, McGonigal shares that when stress is embraced, it can “transform fear into courage, isolation into connection, and suffering into meaning.”

By no means am I suggesting that you should seek out more stress. However, what I am suggesting for this stress awareness month, is a personal inquiry into what your relationship to stress and stress body cues are. How can stress become your ally?

This research is another example of how our imagination and mind can change our body, health, and how we experience the world. If learning more about imagination and dreams interest you, I invite you to our upcoming Introduction to Dream Tending two-day workshop this Saturday and Sunday, May 6-7th. This workshop will cover different methods of how to work with dreams and use imagination as a tool to increase well-being.

I hope to see you there!


Alia Aizenstat, LMFT

Inside The Curious Mind

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Stephen Aizenstat

Stephen Aizenstat, Ph.D., is the founder of Dream Tending, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and the Academy of Imaginal Arts and Sciences. He is a world-renowned professor of depth psychology, an imagination specialist, and an innovator. He has served as an organizational consultant to major companies and institutions, and as a depth psychological content advisor to Hollywood film makers. He has lectured extensively in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. He is affiliated with the Earth Charter International project through the United Nations, where he has spoken. Professor Aizenstat is the Chancellor Emeritus and Founding President of Pacifica Graduate Institute. He has collaborated with many notable masters in the field including Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Marion Woodman, and Robert Johnson.