Yet what you tell yourself about your stress is usually an auto-pilot reaction! Don’t always believe what you tell yourself about your stress. Here are 3 ways to shift your view.
1. View your body’s stress response as helpful, not debilitating
Your body is brilliantly designed to keep you in good health. It does this through the process of ‘homeostasis’ – the balance that continues night and day via your brain and your nervous and endocrine system.
Your body keeps everything balanced; your breathing, heart rate, fluid and mineral levels, digestion of food, hunger and thirst, body temperature, sleep patterns and fighting off infection.
So when you experience ‘stress’ symptoms – it’s your body doing the job it needs to. In certain situations, your stress response is a life-safer.
It’s how our bodies have kept the human race alive! Our ancestors had to run for their lives or stand and fight.
A concoction of hormones such as adrenaline and oxytocin flow through the body. Your body’s finely-tuned autonomic nervous system is in charge of this. A complex stress response ensues. It’s all working in your favour!
What you tell yourself about your stress may be an assumption that stress is bad for you.
Bring mindful awareness to what you’re experiencing. Maybe you notice that your stomach is doing somersaults, your breath has become shallow and your heart is pumping fast.
These are facts, but then the story you tell yourself about it is your own interpretation.
View your body’s stress response as helpful – it’s giving you the energy to go for it – to do a good job, to stay focused and courageous!
Call your ‘stress’ response a ‘challenge’ response instead.
2. You’ve done this before – you know you can handle it
Not only can you handle it, you can grow and thrive on stress in your life.
It’s important to be aware that you may not be the kind of person who is gung-ho throwing yourself into stressful, full-on experiences. Yet that doesn’t mean you cannot deal well with stress.
Look at it as a growing curve, one from which you can learn. Become aware that how you dealt with challenges in the past means you’ve survived to this point. And that you can deal with today’s difficulties with your updated knowledge and understanding.
Be proud of yourself when you have experienced stress and kept going and done a good job!
3. Accept stress is something that everyone deals with
Some better than others! But you’re not alone.
It’s not happening simply because you’re not clever enough and that ‘successful’ people never experience it. Dealing with stressful experiences is part of life.
“The message that stress is always harmful, and life is fundamentally toxic—that is, I think, a big misread on reality.”
However, you do need to notice and act on this. Maybe your stress is telling you that that you’re not experiencing meaningful work.
Or it feels like you have no control in a situation. Or you’re being bullied or struggling with ill-health.
Then the stress you’re experiencing, is your body telling you to make changes. So, once more, stress is helping you to return to homeostasis.
Thank your body for communicating with you!
The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal
Kelly McGonigal, is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University.
Her book ‘The Upside of Stress’ highlights research which turns on its head the notion that stress is bad for you. Her research looked at why some people don’t suffer with stress even though they are involved in ‘challenging’, stressful experiences.
Whether you’re parenting, caring for a loved-one, sitting exams, performing surgery or leading a large team of co-workers, it’s all down to how you view your experience.
What you tell yourself is key. This even results in different physiological outcomes.
When you feel overly stressed, the blood vessels constrict and can eventually lead to ill health. Yet shift your viewpoint – know that you can deal with it and do a good job. This actually lessens the constriction of blood vessels.
Stress – you can’t live with it, you can’t live without it. So befriend it!
More fascinating details from Kelly McGonigal in this article here: Embracing stress is more important than reducing stress
And see Kelly McGonigal’s TedTalk here:
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Guide
Blog post updated Stress Awareness Month April 2018