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Did You Know that (Some) Stress is Good for You?

November 29, 2018 4:33 PM

Dear Readers,

Your hands are clammy, your heart is racing, your blood is thumping loudly through your veins … you are clearly under a lot of stress.

Maybe you are interviewing for a job that you’ve placed high hopes on. Maybe you’ve just heard about a difficult change in your financial situation. Maybe you’re about to give a presentation, and a lot depends on its outcome. Whatever the situation, your body is responding to internal turmoil. The adrenaline is rushing through you, and you are feeling excessively nervous, worried and even afraid.

Until recently, science believed that when people are continuously exposed to such stressful conditions in their lives, their health deteriorates and suffers. After all, stress is supposed to be one of the harmful things that can shorten our lifespan and even cause death.

Recent findings, however, indicate that it is not stress per se that is bad for us. Rather, it’s how we view stress (and handle it). When we view stress as something that is harmful and negative, it negatively impacts us.

But there is a different way of looking at stress. How can we actually convince ourselves to view stress as something positive?

Think of athletes. Athletes regularly interpret signs of stress—like heart palpitations, clammy hands, a sweating brow—not as signs of negative stress, but as excitement as their body prepares to tackle new challenges. Before a race or a game, the adrenaline rushes through their body, and their hearts start to pound in their ears. But athletes don’t think: “Oh no, look at how I’m reacting; this means I’m going to mess up!” To the contrary, athletes view these physical symptoms and manifestations of stress as their bodies getting ready to function at their optimal level.

When viewed so positively, there is even a physical difference in our bodies: the blood vessels don’t constrict as they do in usual high-stress conditions.

Tracht gut vet zein gut is an integral Chassidic saying and teaching. It means think good, have faith in G‑d, and your faith will open spiritual vessels of blessing so that the outcome will actually be positive.

This research on stress shows how our mindset can have such a significant impact on our lives. How you view your reality is what makes your reality. View stress as something negative, and it can physically kill you. On the other hand, see challenging situations as a means of stretching your spiritual and emotional muscles, and they will become a positive means for new opportunities and growth.

We can reinterpret the narrative. We choose how to view our circumstances, and consequently, what our circumstances become.

Chana Weisberg,

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

Soul Powers You Didn’t Know You Had

November 9, 2018 1:50 PM

Dear Readers,

Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios?

Your child—or your co-worker—is grating on your nerves, trying your patience, complaining nonstop. Instinctively, you want to lash out harshly or respond sarcastically. Instead, you dig deep within yourself to find a response that is patient, wise and empathetic.

Sara is naturally introverted, and she shies away from any type of public speaking. After her close relative recovered from a serious illness, she was asked to host an event in her home to speak about the recovery process and the organizations that helped along the way. Though it was extremely hard for her, she felt so passionate about the cause that she agreed, digging deep within herself to find the resources.

A mother watched in horror as a large car ran over her toddler, trapping him underneath. Although she had never practiced any weight training—and though the car was far heavier than anything she could ever possibly lift—somehow in that frightening moment, she was able to access a strength beyond her natural self and succeeded in freeing her child.

Every day we battle darkness—emotionally, spiritually, or physically. Every challenge that we face requires us to find within ourselves inner resources, to access our “inner light” deep within.

Chassidic philosophy teaches us that there are three levels within our spiritual makeup.

  • Kochos pnimi’im, the soul’s conscious inner powers. These powers help us respond to a situation that might require our patience or wisdom by using our intellectual or emotional faculties, like the child or coworker example above.
  • Kochos makifim are the soul’s encompassing powers. This is our spiritual potential that transcends the soul’s conscious control, but encompasses and lifts it up. Even here we have two levels 1.) makif hakarov, an encompassing light that is close (i.e., within our reach); and 2.) makif harachok, an encompassing light that is distant, transcendent and bound with G‑dliness, beyond our reach.

The woman reaching beyond her comfort zone to do something entirely uncharacteristic for the sake of a cause that she is passionate about could be an example of the first. The mother who found transcendent strength far beyond her capabilities when it came to saving her precious child could be an example of the second.

There are times when we feel ourselves overwhelmed by such a darkness that we might even feel incapable of fighting this darkness. At such moments, we need to remember that the highest rung—the essential G‑dly potential lying at the core of our soul—can fight the inkiest darkness and access a light that is stronger.

This is the dimension of the soul that is an actual part of G‑d from above. It can never be blemished; it is intact within each of us, regardless of our present level, and always remains untainted.

And if we don’t stand in its way by thinking we can’t, then we can access it, even and especially in our darkest moments.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

Reframing: From ‘I’ve Got to … ’ to ‘I Get to … ’

November 4, 2018 2:10 AM

Dear Readers,

“It’s getting so cold outside. I just can’t stand the long, cold winter!”

“I have so much to take care of, I don’t even know where to begin. This is just way too much!”

“Why am I always the one to do all the grocery shopping, preparing and cooking for our family’s reunion? How am I going to get it all done?”

There’s so much in our daily schedules that we can complain about. Nothing ever seems to go how we want it, and let’s be honest, life can be tough with its myriad responsibilities and challenges. It’s easy to feel down, depressed and overwhelmed.

Or, we can reframe.

Imagine looking through a camera lens at beautiful nature scenes. It’s the fall season, and you see the glorious trees, with their leaves gently falling and their many panoramic colors. Now focus in on one of those leaves. Set the camera on a dark, ugly dark spot, and notice how shriveled and dried out the leaf appears. Now zoom back out and reframe again. You might see the dazzling colors, or you might notice the strong wind, chilling you to the bone.

Really, the choice is ours. It’s all there. But what frame do you want to see?

Reframing means to examine situations with a different slant, a different perspective. We can look at life as a burden or an opportunity. We can look at our many responsibilities as overwhelming, or we can be happy that we are strong, capable, and physically and emotionally able to do them. We can see the drudgery and coldness of the onset of the winter, or we can appreciate that we are alive to once again witness the change of seasons. We can lament the fact that we need to cook, work, clean or we can appreciate the fact that we have food, a job and a home.

Any situation can be reframed from “I’ve got to …” (read: burdensome, painful, negative) to “I get to …” (read: privilege, opportunity, positive). The day will be filled with the same activities, but it can look entirely different.

There is a famous Chassidic saying, tracht gut vet zain gut, meaning “think good and it will be good.” This means that if we have faith in G‑d, He will do something positive for us. G‑d will channel that faith to actually bring the revealed goodness in our life. Think positively, and G‑d will ensure that you will receive a positive outcome.

On another level, “think good and it will be good” can mean if your mindset is positive—if you are thinking of your situation in terms of what you “get” to do, rather than what you have “got” to do—then your entire perspective and attitude will be positive. Rather than complaining about all the bad in your life, you will actually see how good your life really is!

What a positive thought!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

It Wasn’t Just New Wrinkles on Her Face

November 4, 2018 1:16 AM

Dear Readers,

There once was a group of women who were studying the book of Malachi. They were interested in understanding the verse comparing G‑d to a silversmith: “G‑d will be like a refiner and purifier of silver.” So one woman visited a silversmith.

He showed her how he held the silver where the flames were hottest in order to remove its impurities. Closely watching it every second, he explained that if he kept it in the fire too long, it would be destroyed.

“How do you know when the silver is refined?” she asked.

He replied, “When I see my own image reflected on it.”


I thought of this story when I attended the wedding of my friend’s daughter. I had seen my friend sporadically over the past few years, and she had been through some hard times. Her younger child had been sick with cancer and had undergone a battery of painful treatments. After many months in and out of the hospital, her son was finally declared triumphant over his illness. She was ecstatic, but her joy was short-lived. Soon after, in a routine check-up, the doctors discovered that the illness had returned in full force.

Over the last many months, my friend once again endured the terrible agony of watching her child undergo medical treatments. Her life once again became consumed with fighting for his survival.

Tonight, celebrating her daughter’s wedding, her son was on the path to recovery.

Her face was so happy and full of gratitude, and yet her joy was also almost restrained—as if she was afraid to be too happy, lest something go wrong once again.

I hugged my friend. I could see the pain that she had been through reflected on her face, in new worry lines and wrinkles. I could almost see the many tears she had cried and the hardships she had endured.

As I watched her, I thought how none of us understands the ways of G‑d. None of us can fathom why anyone needs to be put into a “hot spot” or “fire” of life. I thought of the verse in Malachi, and I wondered about people who are put through the fire of life but seem to “break” from it.

Still, etched on her face was the evidence that throughout it all, G‑d had “held” her. Her strength of character, her deeper faith, her renewed conviction demonstrated the new person she had become, with the Divine imprint clearly reflected on her face. I silently prayed that she know no more suffering.

And then I thought of each and every one of us, who in some form or another is put through a trial, a hardship or a terrible challenge, and how G‑d “holds our hands” while we writhe in these hot spots to become the people we are meant to be. As we struggle to make the best life and world for ourselves and our families, outlined on all of our faces is the Divine imprint.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
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