What do Merlin, Dante’s Virgil, and Yoda all have in common? Well, aside from being well-loved, fictional characters, they are what Joseph Campbell would call “archetypal mentors.”
Campbell was an expert in comparative mythology and his work has influenced a diverse range of disciplines. In his 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he first put forward his concept of The Hero’s Journey: a common template shared by countless stories across different cultures.
This universal narrative pattern involves a protagonist embarking on a transformative adventure, overcoming challenges, and returning home with newfound wisdom or power.
Typically, near the beginning of The Hero’s Journey—shortly after the “call to adventure,” or “refusal of the call”—is when the mentor appears. This wise and mysterious figure provides crucial knowledge, tools, or insights that help the hero overcome obstacles and ultimately achieve their goals.
So how does this apply to real life?
While Campbell never intended The Hero’s Journey to be rigidly applied to human experience, he often discussed it within the context of psychology and personal growth. Drawing parallels between mythological stories and personal struggles, he emphasized the importance of embracing your journey, facing challenges, and striving for personal transformation.
Using Campbell’s framework can be a helpful way of reconfiguring how you view stress, empowering you to see it as an integral step on your journey to self-actualization. It can also enable you to better recognize who your true mentors are, partaking in their wisdom and insights on how to effectively deal with stress.
Reframing Your Perception of Stress
If there’s one fact of human existence we can’t avoid, it’s stress. We all experience varying degrees of it throughout our lives, and some have to contend with a lot more of it than others. However, while we tend to put a negative spin on it, stress isn’t only completely normal, but it can actually be a powerful tool for growth.
Unlike distress, ‘eustress’ covers any type of stress that is felt or perceived as beneficial, whether psychological, emotional, or physical. Typically, it’s usually briefer and more exciting than distress, and you might perceive it as manageable or even motivating. A fitting example of eustress might be what theater actors feel before stepping on stage, or a student’s anxiety prior to an exam they’ve prepared for.
While eustress resembles distress in multiple ways (feelings of nervousness, a pounding heart, or racing thoughts) the difference lies in the perception of these sensations. As this study shows, your belief about stress has a profound impact on how damaging it will be.
Therefore, it is possible, with practice, to reframe even the most seemingly stressful situations, viewing them as a profound source of self-development.
While stress in a psychological sense has been studied since the 1930s, stress management (as we know it today) is the result of a decades-long evolution of myriad ideas. Generally speaking, it was during the 1960s and 1970s that researchers and mental health professionals began to focus on the impact of stress on physical and mental health. During this time, various methods were developed and popularized, such as relaxation techniques, biofeedback, meditation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Today, stress management encompasses a vast range of practices. Some of these include:
Mindfulness and Meditation
Practices like mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation help calm the mind and body, promoting relaxation and mental clarity. There now exists an abundance of research showing mindfulness as a proven means of reducing stress. However, some naturally find it easier than others, so if you struggle with quieting your mind, consider seeking out a mindfulness instructor. Given its amazing benefits, we believe it’s well worth it.
If you’re dealing with a chronic or mental health issue, a brisk jog may seem insurmountable. However, even light exercise like walking or gardening are known to be effective at relieving stress. By releasing endorphins and promoting overall well-being, regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for easing your troubled mind. It will also make you more resilient to acute stress in the future, as this study found:
“… regular exercisers are more resistant to the emotional effects of acute stress, which in turn, may protect them against diseases related to chronic stress burden.”
Sometimes, life seems to throw you a curveball—you might forget to do an important task, leave a deadline to the last minute, or miss an appointment. All these have the potential to make you feel stressed. Learning and implementing effective time management skills can help you prioritize tasks, set realistic goals, and reduce feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.
In the pursuit of better health and well-being, people can often forget the fundamentals. They may not even realize that the bulk of their issues are the result of what they’re ingesting. Remember, stress is not just a mental issue, but a biological one. A balanced and nutritious diet supports a healthy immune system and the repair of damaged cells, providing you with the energy needed to cope with stressful events.
Mindful eating—taking deep breaths, focusing your attention on the meal, and chewing food slowly—not only helps improve gastrointestinal function but can also help you avoid “stress eating.”
Many studies show that having access to a support network is crucial for relieving stress. So, no matter how capable you are, you can’t solve all your problems alone. Without fulfilling your primal need for love and belonging, stress relief will prove incredibly difficult.
If you’re feeling stressed, ignore the feelings of shame or self-criticism and reach out to friends, family, or support groups. They can provide invaluable emotional and practical support, helping you navigate stressful situations. Who knows? Your mentors might be among them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a widely-used, empirically-supported treatment that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors.
Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, CBT focuses more on the present than the past, helping you to develop healthy coping strategies and problem-solving skills. Considered the “gold standard” treatment for anxiety and stress-related disorders, few therapies have proven as effective as CBT at helping people manage stress.
Meeting Your Mentors
It’s important to remember that your mentor can come in many forms. It doesn’t have to be a literal wizard knocking on your door or a supernatural force! In fact, these guides can often appear in surprising and unexpected ways.
While seeming to have an air of “newness” to them, they really serve as mirrors, revealing and igniting the boundless potential within you. All you need to do is keep your eyes open, stay present, and you’ll know true mentorship when you see it. Remember, your mentor could be anyone, but here are some common forms they might take:
Professional Counselor or Therapist
Let’s begin with the most obvious. Given their specific education and clinical experience, psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists can provide expert guidance on stress management. However, not every health professional you meet will fit the bill of a “mentor”—you may disagree with some of their advice or, in some cases, not gel with them at all.
This is where you need to be discerning and not succumb to an authority bias. Get in touch with your higher self and focus on what resonates with you. If you feel underserved, explore different modalities or request a different therapist. Remember, you are the one in control of your journey.
This is a veritable hotbed for potential mentors, especially for those in recovery. Those with experiences with stress and addiction similar to your own can understand and empathize more easily. Not only that but having made it through recovery, their support is based on lived experience rather than textbook knowledge. By sharing their stories, offering practical advice, and providing emotional support, peers are often life-changing mentors.
Support Group Facilitator
For those dealing with acute stress, support groups are an invaluable resource. Facilitators or group leaders can serve as mentors by fostering a nurturing environment and providing guidance on coping strategies. What’s more, you could find your mentor in a fellow member of the support group. Never underestimate people, as the most profound wisdom can be hidden in the most unlikely places.
Spirituality can come in many forms and doesn’t necessarily have to be confined to one form of belief. Faith notwithstanding, from a scientific standpoint, practicing spirituality has been shown to be an effective way to relieve stress and build resilience. This 2020 study revealed that trained social workers who practiced spirituality experienced less stress and fewer post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms after assisting trauma victims.
If you do have a practice or faith, spiritual advisors—such as priests, rabbis, Bhantes, or imams—can provide mentorship by offering spiritual guidance and encouraging practices like meditation or prayer. Just remember not to follow people blindly—use your intuition.
Family Member or Friend
We don’t get to choose our families, and not everyone is blessed with friends who have their best interests at heart. In some cases, your loved ones may not be best served to help you with stress management. They could be dealing with their own issues or be ill-equipped to provide you with the tools you need to progress on your journey. However, as we’ve mentioned, learning how to identify those who embody the mentor archetype is a skill necessary for every hero—for then you know whose advice and support can always be relied upon.
So, if you’re fortunate enough to have mentors in your family and friends, ensure you are respectful of their needs and space. After all, they help you out of a sense of love rather than professional duty.
Find Your Mentor at Maui Recovery
At Maui Recovery, we prioritize the role of stress management in addiction treatment. We also understand that finding your mentor—be it a friend, peer, or professional—is often instrumental in helping you effectively deal with stress. Whether it’s adventure therapy, CBT, or peer support, our center is designed specifically to maximize the potential of finding yours.
When it comes to our approach, decades of experience have shown us that a holistic one is often the most effective. Having long been champions of Joseph Campbell’s ideas (and witnessed their positive impact firsthand) we infuse them with evidence-based treatments to provide personalized treatment plans.
Through our comprehensive programs and supportive community, we want to empower you to overcome your struggles with stress and embrace your unique potential. Remember, no one should face life’s challenges alone; your mentor is waiting, ready to provide a leg-up on your journey to long-term recovery.
To find out how we approach stress management or learn about our treatment plans, please contact us here.