Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thoughts on Stress.

The last weekend of summer before school starts in BC is hopefully a time for parents, teachers, administrators, students and others connected to schools to take a deep breath and to relax before the stress of  next week sets in.

We all know what excessive stress can do to your energy. We begin with a quote from Dr. Barnet Meltzer, who is perhaps the most renowned doctor of preventative medicine in the United States.

“Stress is the tax you pay for not taking 100% responsibility for your life.” —Dr. Barnet Meltzer

Although we all talk about stress, it often isn't clear that we know what stress is really about.  There are many schools of thought about what stress means, here are two ideas to think about. Many of us consider stress to be something that happens to us, the event could be an injury or a promotion, falling in/out of love. Others think that stress is what happens to their bodies, minds and behaviours in response to an event (e.g. heart pounding, anxiety, or nail biting).  Interesting idea I believe that while stress does involve events and our response to them, these are not the most important factors. The most important factor in my mind is our thoughts about the situations in which we find ourselves.

When something happens I believe that we automatically evaluate the situation. We decide if it is threatening to us. Threatening is not just a physical threat, the threat could be to our ego, our self esteem, our health or our energy. We decide how we need to deal with the situation, and what skills we have and can use. If we decide that the demands of the situation outweigh the skills we have, then we may label the situation as "stressful" and react with the classic "stress response". If we decide that our coping skills outweigh the demands of the situation, then we don't see it as "stressful".  This response may be automatic or it may take a while for us to process the information we receive and so the response may be delayed.

Because of the paradigms in which we see ourselves interacting with the world we all see situations differently and each of us has access to different coping skills. No two people will respond exactly the same way to a given situation.

Additionally, not all situations that are labelled "stressful" are negative. The birth of a child, being promoted or moving to a new home may not be perceived as threatening. However, we may feel that situations are "stressful" because we don't feel fully prepared to deal with them.

All situations in life can be stress-provoking, but it is our thoughts about situations that determine whether they are a problem to us.  How we perceive a stress-provoking event and how we react to it determines its impact on our health. We may be motivated and invigorated by the events in our lives, or we may see some as "stressful" and respond in a manner that may have a negative effect on our physical, mental and social well-being. If we we always respond in a negative way our health and happiness may suffer. By understanding ourselves and our reactions to stress-provoking situations, we can learn to handle stress more effectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment