The word “stress” has become so popular, that pretty much everyone around you is talking about how stressed they are. They are stressed by their jobs, stressed by trying to balance family and work, stressed financially, and stressed by pretty much everything.
We naturally are stressed by any number of situations and events in life. Here are a few that you might resonate with:
- Doing something new or learning something new
- Spending time on activities that you feel you have no choice about
- Having someone else suddenly change priorities or direction on your tasks
- Lack of: finances, food or rest
It’s natural to feel stress in the above situations. A fascinating aspect of stress is that the very same situation affects different people in widely varying ways. Bungee jumps may strike fear, with resulting stress, in some and be wildly enjoyed by others. Even the body’s physiological reactions is different in the above example. One person sweats and shakes when having to speak in front of a group while the other person is energized and perfectly calm and steady.
Some level of stress is actually a good thing. Stress challenges you to grow. You grow when challenged by something new. Muscle fibers become stronger when “stressed” by weight training. Mental acuity improves when challenged with new mental tasks. When you learned to tie your shoes, it was stressful.
Some research shows that, up to a point, an increase in stress improves performance. Think about how efficient you are at completing activities right before you leave for vacation? Have you noticed how much quicker you are at completing the very same tasks? In that example, you’ve introduced your own stressor, and it’s a positive thing!
If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are? – T.S. Eliot
Your level of stress in a situation is directly related to your feeling of choice about it.
Therefore, an important stress relief strategy is to evaluate your life and determine how you can choose differently. You can choose to view a situation from any number of perspectives. Most likely, at least one of those perspectives is going to reduce your feeling of stress.
Imagine you are forced to eat a bowl of chocolate ice cream. You could choose to resist it because you are being forced. This might cause you noticeable stress. Alternately, in the same situation, being forced to eat the ice cream, you could choose to savor the flavor because you really love chocolate ice cream. This different choice would cause you to feel less stress. The situation and the end result are exactly the same, you are being forced and you eat the ice cream. The level of stress, and the resulting physical response, is quite different.
When you are ready to reduce the stress in your life, look at the situations in your life with the intent of looking for ways to make different choices about how you are viewing the situation. Certainly, you might find situations that you can change, things you can stop doing, even things you can do differently. And, starting there is a powerful beginning! After that, though, look at your life to find places where you can choose a different perspective or different opinion.
For example: you have chosen to take, and stay at, a certain job that requires a lot of overtime. You could choose to complain about how much time you have to work and how hard it is. You could choose to look at how little time you have with your family. You could choose to put the overtime pay into a savings account because you have little time for entertainment spending. You could choose to be grateful for the extra income. You could choose to make family time really awesome and not waste a precious minute of it. You could choose to look for a job that allowed you more family time. The quality and happiness of your life depend on your choices.
Recognize that it is your choices that determine your stress or your lack of stress.
What choices are you willing to make to reduce your stress?