Stress: what is it exactly?

Stress: what is it exactly?

The truth is that stress is unique and different for each person. There is no single thing that absolutely everyone, in every culture, agrees is stressful. An elevator ride can give someone a 10 on his or her stress scale and another person gives it a 0. So are elevators inherently stressful? Obviously not. Having to run five separate errands in two hours can totally stress out one person and another thinks it is just another typical day. Some might find the prospect of spending a week at the in-laws horrifying and others will look forward to it. Is it truly stressful?

It’s our thoughts and feelings around these examples and countless others that make them stressful. Every day our thoughts either bring on a sense of stress or not. The problem is that we never question these thoughts. We just acknowledge how we feel and go on feeling it. Our thoughts are what create emotions, not the other way around. Every time an emotion arises, it is as a direct result of a thought we just had.

If you are feeling like your emotions are running your life, you are probably right. If your life isn’t going the way you would like, if you aren’t experiencing the joy or peace in your day to day life you would like, check out your thoughts.

It is a fairly simple process to do. With the next stressful thought you have, ask yourself: Is it true? Is this thought that I am thinking, absolutely true and do I know for sure, beyond any reasonable doubt that this thought is true?

If your answer is no or even maybe, ask yourself if there is another possible perspective to see it from. Is there another way of looking at this that is just a little different and yet is equally valid and makes you feel even a slightly bit better? It doesn’t have to be a 180 degree thought, but just different enough that you are feeling some relief.

Here is an example.

“I don’t think my boss likes me. I can’t seem to do anything to please him/her. I think he/she would get rid of me in a heart beat if possible.”

This thought makes it hard to put your heart into doing anything on the job, even getting up and going into work can be difficult. You are certain that nothing you do will win the favor or appreciation of your boss.

Try applying these equally valid thoughts to get just a little relief.

“I work hard and I know I do a good job. My boss is a really busy person who seems to also be under a lot of stress. Perhaps what I think is impatience or indifference toward me is really just him/her being caught up in his/her own stuff. I don’t know for sure that he/she doesn’t like me. He/She hasn’t come out and told me that. Maybe I am reading more into this than there really is. After all, it’s true that I really don’t know what my boss is thinking. Perhaps none of his/her attitude has anything to do with me. I think I will just keep doing a good job and offer help where I can. I really do feel good about the work I do and that’s the most important thing. When I don’t focus on what I think my boss thinks of me, I am quite happy.”

If you can do this each time you feel your stress and anxiety levels rise, you will begin to notice a dramatic shift occurring in how you feel. The more you practice this, the easier it comes and the quicker you will feel the relief and over time it just becomes second nature.