Is stress really stress?

Think about it. What stresses you out the most? Family? Finances? Health? Traffic? Work? Getting your holiday shopping done? But are these things really stressing you out? Most of us would think “yes, of course, these things are stressing me out.” In a way you’re right, but in another way, you could be missing the boat. While these situations and circumstances may be a catalyst for a stress response, these things are probably not in and of themselves the cause of your stress. Rather, it is typically our perception and response to these stressors that cause us to experience stress. Yes. I’m saying that we stress ourselves out! Here’s the good news. If we can stress ourselves out, then we can certainly have some control over managing our stress. Which means, my friends, we can have more control over our stress than we realize.

Of course, as for most things, it all begins with awareness. When we are aware of what is pushing our buttons, we’re better able to maintain control over our buttons. So maybe you want to ask yourself, “What is stressing me out the most right now?” Then perhaps ask yourself “why?” Why is your family member, friend, finances, health, traffic, work, etc. causing you to feel stressed? Most likely these circumstances are causing you to talk to yourself in a stress promoting way. “I’m scared something really bad is happening or will happen if things continue in this way and I feel out of control to do anything about it” is often at the crux of most of our stress responses. What happens if you closely examine what you’re saying to yourself and then decide to say something different, something more helpful? Perhaps what you could say to yourself now could be, “Is this something that is really worth getting upset about?” If the answer is “no” you can smile, breathe, decide to let go of your upset and focus on something else. But if the answer is “yes” then perhaps you could again smile, breathe, and add “this is really upsetting me, but I know with time I can figure out what do about it.” Our human stress response harkens back to our stone age days when it was there to help us fight or flee from the tiger. Now it brings us anxiety, fear and feeling out of control, which ultimately, and over an extended period of time, can have negative effects on our health and well-being. Here’s the secret. . .if we tell ourselves we can handle the stressful circumstance than we increase the likihood that we can. Perhaps even more importantly, if we tell ourselves we can handle the circumstances, our stress reduces significantly. So remember, how you look at things makes a difference. Us humans will always respond to an upsetting circumstance with a stress response. Your boss yells at you, your partner says something mean to you, your bank account is overdrawn. These aren’t things that are going to make you happy. However, awareness of your perspective on something that is stressing you out, gives you control over whether or not you stay stressed out. ‘Tis the season to be stressed out . . . but hopefully you can keep hold of the jolly instead. . .

So maybe smile, take a breath and think about it?

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer


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