Stress Relief; It’s All In Your Head

Sunrise in Cancun
Is the Sun breaking through the clouds, or are the clouds covering the Sun?

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This is Part One in a Two-Part Series…

“Stress relief” is a “hot topic” these days, and it seems as though our modern lives are becoming increasingly stressful all the time. We’ve got financial worries, information overload, job layoffs, mortgage issues, wars… the list could go on. Yet, some people are less stressed-out than others. Why is that? Do they really have less stress, or is there something else going on?

According to the New Oxford Dictionary, stress is a “state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”¹. (I would add, “to the individual”.) While some “demanding circumstances” are avoidable, others we will encounter daily because of the choices we have made. The answer is not always to remove the “adverse circumstance”, and sometimes it’s just not practical or even desired.

If stressors were universal, there would be a comprehensive list of things that everybody found stressful… And while there are many similarities, not everybody finds the same things equally stressful. Some situations leave one group in a panic, while others seem to thrive upon those same situations. Therefore, if people can experience different feelings in the face of the same stressor, then it’s not the stressor that’s the issue; it’s the stressful feelings that cause us the trouble.

Stress is personal. It’s how each person views those situations that they deem “stressful” that cause the feelings of stress: stressful thoughts lead to stressful feelings.

Am I saying that stress is all in your head? In a way yes. AND the manifestations of stressful feelings are very real and tangible. But it’s not the stress that causes the trouble; it’s how you perceive it that does the damage. And wow… is this a game changer or what?!

So, what are you thinking about? Where do you hold your focus? Based on the above knowledge of differing experiences about the same stressors, what other perspectives about your stressor must also be true? Meaning, how else could you be looking at it?

How you view your life is the root cause of your stressful feelings.

This changes everything because it means that you’ve got the answer right there in your mind; when you find yourself experiencing stress you have an opportunity to do something about it!

To move towards one solution, let’s consider the wisdom of Marshall B. Rosenberg. In his book Speak Peace in a World of Conflict; he indicates that every one has personal needs that are intrinsic to living satisfying lives. Painful/stressful feelings are an indication of personal needs that are not being met.

An Exercise:

What Ten Personal Needs reflected on this list must be present for you to feel truly satisfied in your life? (Of course there are more than that, but just choose ten for the sake of this exercise.)

Life will feel stressful if most of these Ten Personal Needs are not, at least partially, met.

To honor these needs:

    • Create the list and check in with it throughout the day to connect with how your stressors are affecting them.
    • Consider what choices you could make, or alternate perspectives you could hold, to ensure they are met.

Always infinite possibilities… always your choice.

Come back next week for Part Two in this Series on Stress Relief.

Please share your insight… tell us how you manage stress in your life in the Comment section below.

Photo Credit: Sunrise in Cancun ©2008 Christine Faucher-Kelley

Music Credit: “Put Your Records On”, ©Copyright 2006, Corinne Bailey Rae.

1 Stress (1998). In Judy Pearsall (Ed.), The New Oxford Dictionary of English (p.1839, 1st ed.), Oxford, Oxford University Press

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