Pleasure as an Antidote to Stress



I have always considered ease to be the antonym, and indeed antidote, to stress.

As a single mum, raising two children alone, whilst I run a business and a house, I know all too well that my life is at times – to put it mildly! – stressful. “Monster Mum” is the term my children and I have coined for when I lose my usual equilibrium and start racing around the house, yelling directions about laundry and room tidying like a Boot-camp Sergeant Major.

“Chill Out, Mum” my kids will mutter under their breath, shutting their bedroom doors to escape my angry adrenalin. And I have always thought the antidote to this kind of manic stress must be just that – chilling out, breathing deep and finding inner calm amongst the tumultuous chaos.

I’ve gone to great lengths to bring more space and ease into my living. I’ve learnt the art of boundaries and how to say some guilt-free no’s. I have found ways to prioritise and drop what isn’t useful. I’ve even made some progress on things not always being perfect, and have learnt that cereal for dinner on occasion is as good as any option.

And all of this has no doubt helped to ease some of the demanding burdens that create a sense of stress.

But still, I notice that it is not always easy to find an ease amongst all the doing. And, I’ve continued to twist myself into knots trying to work out how to do less and source the kind of calm and space I’ve been thinking that I’m wanting.

But what if I’ve been looking in the wrong places? What if the antidote to stress – at least some of the time – is not necessarily ease after all?

What if the antidote to stress is not about doing less; but is about doing more of what is pleasurable?

Allowing acts of pleasure-seeking to bring more joy and aliveness to my living as an antidote to stress.

This morning I went for an incredible hike. The sky was blue, the air chilly and invigorating and the views simply spectacular. The part of me weighed down with all I need to do this week felt I should keep the hike short, so I could get back to the pieces demanding my attention this busy week. I thought more space in my day would reduce the stress levels I could feel rising and provide the ease I knew my body was requiring.

But something today let me choose differently and when my friend suggested a trail that would take a longer, winding path back, I said yes. I was having so much pleasure in that moment, I felt so much nourishment and joy from the walking, the beauty, the nature and our conversation, I simply didn’t want it to end.

I returned home much later than I had scheduled, happy and filled up. And, the truth is I still got done what needed doing. More importantly, I have felt full of joy and delight all day, truly fed at a deep level by what my morning of pleasured escape provided.

True pleasure acts as a powerful balm to our bodies, hearts and souls.

And yet pleasure seems to get forgotten in the busy-ness of our doing; and the purported ethics of our living.

When did you last prioritise your pleasure over duty or obligation? What would prioritising pleasure look like for you? What stories do you hold that sabotage you choosing pleasure?

Elevating emotions is a fast-track to transformation. And, pleasure is guaranteed to elevate emotion.

Elevating emotions changes our moods, releases feel good chemicals in the brain and raises our frequency to one that can further receive the good things in life. Moreover, your own joyful, grateful state in turn elevates the moods and emotions of those around you. So, should you need further encouragement, it turns out your pursuit of pleasure can actually help others!

For some time, I have been on a mission to bring more pleasure to the forefront of my living. When I remember to do this, the consequences have been amazing.

do-what-brings-you-joy-and-your-purpose-will-unfold-quote-1Pleasure is a power source that we tend to massively under-rate.

Which is why pleasure has become a central tenet of my coaching programs and workshops.

So, this week, I invite you to explore pleasure and how you hold it. What brings you joy? Delight? Pleasure? What could you do today to prioritise or choose pleasure?

It could be as small a thing as choosing to walk on the sunny side of the street, or buying yourself some flowers or indulging in a buttery croissant. Perhaps you stop to smell the blossom on the tree you pass, or really savour the kiss your partner planted on your lips as you left the house this morning.

Moments of pleasure are constantly being offered throughout our day. Generous antidotes to the pressures and stresses that habituate most days. It is up to us, and only us, whether we choose to embrace them.

As always, I’d love to hear your comments and reflections. And, if you liked this blog post, and would like to read others, please sign up to my email list, where you will receive my weekly blog posts, transformative tools and exercises, and information on future workshops that I will be hosting CLICK HERE.

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  1. Tina de Meeûs says:

    Dear Susannah, I have been enjoying all your blog posts, and this one particularly so. I second what you say, not only because it makes sense but from own experience. Pleasure is a powerful antidote to stress, refuels my energy levels and helps me to keep focus on what’s important. Looking forward to the next post!

  2. Karen Knowlton says:

    I loved this Susannah! Very well timed for me!! I just went back to yoga last night after taking two weeks off due to “more important things”. I felt so recharged afterward, and wondered why I would ever let myself miss something so nourishing and joyful. Prioritizing pleasure is something I need to work on for sure, and as always, I so appreciate your wisdom 🙂

  3. This resonates with me, Susannah. I’m reflecting on how pleasure shows up in my life: i can choose it, by actively deciding to do something just for the pleasure it brings, and/or i can find pleasure in an ordinary moment. I realise that I very rarely actively choose pleasure over ‘jobs’ and the shoulds on my list. I certainly get flashes of pleasure in my life but I suspect that, if I pursued pleasure a bit more, it would expand my capacity to be present to those flashes. And I love the idea of elevating emotions, both my own and those around me. Which begs the question, what brings me pleasure? One clear answer: singing! X

    • Hi Louise, there is so much beauty in your reflections – thank you for taking the time to respond. I can’t help but think that if we all prioritized pleasure a little more, the world would be a happier place! And, I believe many of us have become so divorced from pleasure, it actually takes us a while to really remember what brings us pleasure! So, I love that you are clear that one source of pleasure for you is singing! I have just started horse riding lessons, something I always wanted to do as a child and never got much chance to, and I am LOVING it! – so if in doubt, think back to what you enjoyed as child! Enjoy!! x

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