Controlling Stress Before It Controls You
(c) 2012 Carol James, Founder of InspiredLiving.com
kids, spousal misunderstandings, blaring alarm clocks, approaching
deadlines, unexpected interruptions, creativity blocks, endless
emails or phone messages to return, bad news, bills to be paid,
traffic jams, health problems, computer crashes, household chores,
impending taxes, demanding bosses . . . stress, stress and more
stress. But did you ever stop to think about what leads to stress?
The path to stress is easy to see by observing the natural characteristics
of human beings as they select, process and respond to experiences. If
we could slow down our thought-reaction process, we could see the individual
characteristics of humanness as they play out. For example, heres
an example to illustrate how stress happens and how it affects you:
notice that your husband (or wife, mate or child) has not
come home yet, even though he said hed be home an hour ago
(your point of focus).
decide that something must be terribly wrong. Perhaps you imagine
that hes been in a horrible car accident or, even worse,
a victim of car-jacking (the meaning you make about why he is
- After all,
the news is filled with all the bad things that can happen to unsuspecting
people (the evidence to support your conclusion).
of the meaning you have made about why he is late, an emotional
response is triggered and you feel anxious, worried or even panicky.
Your body chemistry has changed, producing all the classic symptoms
of stress: Your muscles tense, your head begins to ache, nausea
attacks your stomach, your pulse quickens, etc. (your biochemical
tension has affected your state of mind as you become negative
and pessimistic, expecting the worst (your state of mind).
because your emotional reaction is fear, your level of personal
effectiveness is, in turn, diminished. You no longer think with
a level head, perhaps even feeling out of control. You become easily
distracted from activities, struggling to focus your thoughts or
actions in a constructive way (diminished personal effectiveness).
functions seem difficult or burdensome, often turning into messes,
like the carton of milk you just spilled on the floor. Frustrated,
you scream at the kids to shut up and clean up the mess (the
outcome as a result of your stressed-out state).
course, the scenario offered above is a negative response to stimuli.
It could have gone an entirely different way if the woman had decided
that her husbands lateness had simply meant something else,
perhaps that he got caught in traffic or decided to stop for a few
illustration can be applied to any situation you experience getting
cut off in traffic, having your work critiqued, being assigned more
work than you think you can handle, having a disagreement, etc. Your
emotional and physical response and your personal effectiveness depend
on the meaning you give to the experience.
before you get all stress-out over the situation, take a moment to
stop and think about whether your interpretation of the situation
is accurate. A great question to check your interpretation is, "How
can I know for sure?"
question applied to the above scenario would be, "How can I
know for sure that he has been in an accident?" The obvious
answer is, you cant know for sure. So why let yourself get
stressed-out over an imaginary fear? After all, its your thoughts
that lead to stress, and you can control those.
Return to Stress Reduction Table of Contents
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