Stressed Out? It May Be Time For A Change In Perspective

ed ruscha

(Ed Ruscha)

Do you believe  that all stress is a bad thing?

I certainly did.

Until I realized that without challenges in life that could be stressful I would never make progress in any way.  

So much for living in a state of nirvana 24-7!  It wouldn’t feel like nirvana after too long anyway, because too much of even the best things in life get too usual.  If you are happy all the time, every second, how would you know you were happy if you didn’t experience sadness occasionally?

What exactly is stress, anyway? According to Merriam Webster’s third definition, stress is ” a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.”  Sounds awful. I know.

What’s interesting here is that physical stress can be caused by, say, not eating for a certain number of hours or not drinking enough water.  Chemical stress can be anything from a mild allergic reaction to a perfume to a potent medication.  Emotional stress can be self-imposed or can be served to you throughout an average day.  Its completely and totally impossible to avoid “stress” unless you live in a perfectly regimented bubble, and that is not realistic or desired.  Given all this information, how the hell do you avoid stress?

One possibility is to change your mind about the fact that all stress is bad.  On most any given day  you can literally hand me a home disaster and I will happily sort it out for you with a bit of exhilaration and a smile.  On that same day, you might hand me an administrative crisis that involves computers and I melt down and have a fit.  I am very able in design… so if you serve me a situation I will knock it out of the park. Same type of crisis in a situation I feel less able in… and its wild stress if I’m not in the right frame of mind.

Its funny, in a sense you can offset physical stress by diverting your attention.   If its 3pm and I have’t had lunch yet, I can be fine… until I see its 3pm and then a whole chain of events spins in my mind” I am going to pass out.  I am not functioning well. I feel dizzy.  I can’t think…”   But, before I knew that it was 3pm, I was just fine.

Getting into an “I can do this” mindset will do wonders for your ability to either feel the type of “stress” that is exhilarating rather than the type that is debilitating.  Rising to the occasion instead of closing down in the face of stressful situations can make them much less stressful.  If all stress is bad in your mind (as it was in mine for many, many unproductive years of my life) you may be both more stressed by challenging situations than others and you may find that this mindset can hold you back from progress and limits your life.

Psychology Today breaks this down in a brilliant article that I suggest everyone read, The Six Best-Kept Secrets About Stress:

” So where’s the secret in this, you ask? The new data, hot off the presses, comes from a study published by Yale psychologist Alia Crum and team (2013). They talk about the stress “mindset,” the mental “frame or lens” that you use when you approach and understand an experience.  If you have a negative stress mindset, you believe, for example, that you should avoid stress at all costs, that it saps your energy, and that it inhibits your ability to grow. If your stress mindset is positive, you feel that it makes you healthier, and that it enhances your performance and productivity.

Crum and her colleagues found that people with a positive stress mindset were in fact better able to handle laboratory-induced stress.  In a work context, they were also more likely to seek feedback on their performance, which in turn would allow them to grow even more from their experiences, even the stress-provoking ones. The moral of the story is that if you want to handle stress more effectively, don’t label all stress as bad.  Try to look at stress with a positive mindset and you will, in fact, be better able to cope with it.”

If you are looking to rise to the occasion of challenges, remind yourself of it often!    The way we react to situations is a habit like any other;  the only thing to do is untrain yourself from those automatic, habitual stress reactions.  You CAN solve the problems that stress you out.  You can live with less stress:  and the answer is probably not to hide out from life  to do it!

Why not reinforce your environment to help you rise to the occasion and turn stressfull situations into exciting challenges?

Maybe put a screensaver on your phone and computer  that reminds you simply to rise to the occasion in whatever way you need to. Try adding vertical lines or more height in the decor (ie, a tall lamp, etc) in spaces where you are called upon to perform well: they will help you energize.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, let yourself be overwhelmed without judging it or fighting against it… and then sort it out step by step.  You can not control the stresses in life but you can absolutely control your reaction to them…which happens to make them less stressfu! xoxo Dana

JoAnn May 31, 2013 at 11:35 am

Great article! I look forward to reading your site every
Morning before work. It helps put me in a positive mindset ready for the day!
Thank You a million times over!

Xoxo Jo!

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danaclaudat May 31, 2013 at 4:37 pm

how wonderful to hear! thank you so much & enjoy your weekend! if there’s anything you’d like to hear about/ learn about, please send it over! xx Dana

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Ken May 31, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Great post Dana! I think a little stress is okay, but to much of it can kill you. Interesting to diving deep on this topic.
Stay healthy, stay happy!

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