Do you ever notice that some people are very busy and yet they seem so “chill”?
And yet others have what seems like “little on the go” and yet are highly stressed?
As I reflect, I can honestly say that my most “stressed” days are not always my busiest days.
So I asked myself why….
“The truth is that your stress does not come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. Your stress comes from your THOUGHTS about these circumstances” ~Andrew Bernstein
This quote pretty much summed it all up for me.
I think it also explains why some days an event (like dinner not being ready and its 6:00pm already) can leave me feeling curious and full of wonder for what will come and yet the same event (no dinner ready and its already 6:00pm!!) can have me short of breath and feeling completely stressed.
It really is our “perception” of stress (and the stories we let our mind write) and not the actual event that causes us to engage in the stress response. This being the case, I wanted to talk about ways to gently shift our perception of what causes us stress in hopes of uncovering a happier, healthier means of dealing with life and its events.
We all have good stress and bad stress in our lives.
In fact, our happiness depends on it.
Good stress (referred to as eustress and ironically pronounced YOU-stress) is the stress that makes us feel excited, motivated, productive and up for a challenge. For me this is the feeling of going on vacation; lots to do to prepare but rising to the challenge with a sandy beach on the horizon. Good stress can make our heart rate increase (similar to bad stress) but the biology of our body differs quite drastically. We respond physically and emotionally much better because we are not in a state of fear and the body isn’t sensing “threat”.
Bad stress, which can come in the form of acute bursts or chronic stress (the really bad stress) engages our fight/flight response. Our blood pressure rises, heart beats faster, the stress hormones secrete (adrenaline, cortisol etc) and our body prepares for an attack. Although we are wired to handle acute or short bursts of bad stress in moderation (they actually help to protect us in the face of danger), chronic low grade stress was never meant to be part of our lives. Chronic stress can be described as repeatedly feeling a heavy toll that is inescapable. This ongoing state (vs quick burst) often comes from that job we really hate or the one that is always fighting-fires (physically or literally) or the toxic relationship we are unable to break free from.
I know what you’re thinking…why is she reminding me of how much stress I have in my life!!??
This is where perception comes in.
The way in which we perceive our stress (think challenge vs threat) determines how our body will manifest the stress.
This is where the mind/body connection comes into play in a big way!
The mind and body are inexplicably connected; when one feels something, the other responds in some way. If we perceive (with our mind) that not having dinner on the table by 6pm is bad, it will cause our bodies to respond in kind (fight/flight and all the negative physical impacts). If we can make a tiny shift to perceive that same event (hey, its 6pm and dinner isn’t ready! I wonder what I can whip together that get at least 3 of the 4 food groups into the mix) as a challenge…bingo! Our body has a much different, much healthier, much happier response.
This is logical but harder to implement due to our learned behaviour patterns. I have just scratched the surface on here but it’s a topic that I always cover in my Happier, Healthier ME classes.
Life is short.
Don’t let limiting beliefs highjack your quality of life.
If you are ready to kick bad stress (that feeling of dis-stress) to the curb, reach out. Let’s take a “perception” journey to a Happier, Healthier YOU!