How to Kick the Habit of Stress

We often think of stress as an outside force that can take over our lives. We live in stressful times: life moves faster than ever, we have more demands on our time, energy, and attention, and we have less time for ourselves. There also seem to be more and more dramatic circumstances surrounding us: extreme weather, natural disasters, terrorist plots, protests, wars, noise, pollution, crime, and so on. All those are good reasons to see stress as something outside you that threatens your well-being. So, it’s easy to feel like a passive victim of forces outside your control.

No doubt there are a variety of life stressors and their intensity seems to be increasing. We can divide these into three categories: environmental, social, and physiological.

Environmental factors include moving to a new home or place of work, weather, pollutants, noise, traffic, pollens, and environmental fields such as electro-magnetic, x-ray, microwave, and cell-phone transmissions.

Social factors include the demands of others on your time, energy, and attention, work deadlines and presentations, interpersonal conflict, financial difficulties, losing a job, and forming, shifting, or ending relationships including marriage, divorce, and the death of loved ones.

Physiological factors include growing stages, menopause, lack of exercise, poor diet, inadequate sleep, sickness, injuries, and aging.

Though changes in these three dimensions have a great impact on the stress you feel, there is one thing that differentiates those who will feel overwhelmed from those who will handle these changes and thrive. I believe this one element is really THE FACTOR when it comes to stress. It is this: how you interpret the changes that are happening.

No matter what happens in your life, it is how you perceive it that makes all the difference. The interpretive lens that you bring to any event will determine if something stresses you out or inspires you to effective action. In other words, it is not so much the events themselves that create stress, it is how you how you relate to and respond to them.

Stress researchers Lazarus and Folkman (1984) emphasize just this point. They say that, “Stress begins with your appraisal of a situation. You first ask how dangerous or difficult the situation is and what resources you have to help you cope with it. Anxious, stressed people often decide that (1) an event is dangerous, difficult, or painful and (2) they don’t have the resources to cope.” (p. 2, “The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook,” 2008)

In other words, “How you interpret and label your present experience and what you predict for your future can serve either to relax or to stress you.” (p. 1, “The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook,” 2008) You experience chronic stress as long as your mind perceives that your well-being is threatened. If you have a fearful, anxious, victim-oriented mindset, you may live with a constant underlying feeling of being vulnerable.

However, a mindset is simply a way of looking at something. It is just an habitual pattern or a learned response. Those who feel the most stressed tend to look at life events in a stressful way. In contrast, researchers at the University of Chicago (Kobasa 1985) have found that those who are “stress hardy” view demanding life events as challenges and opportunities for personal growth. They feel that they can do something about what is happening in their lives. They emphasize the resources that they have and believe they can use those resources to influence what is going on. That is their habitual mindset.

Stress hardiness is a characteristic that you can develop. The next time you feel stress building, pause, and take a mental break. Take a time-out and step away from whatever you are doing. Then, assess what you can do to make this a moment that grows your stress hardiness versus a moment that escalates into overload. See if you can discover the opportunity in what is happening and identify the resources you have to handle and take advantage of that opportunity. This simple shift will turn the tables on stress and put you back in charge of your life. As you repeat that shift, stress hardiness will become your new habit.

Are you ready to de-stress, quiet your mind, and relax deeply? Discover how to take your stress management to the next level. To take a simple stress test be sure to visit us here:
Kevin Schoeninger M.A. Certified Trainer and Meditation Instructor

Discover how to take your stress management to the next level. To take a simple stress test visit us here:
http://www.mindbodytrainingcompany.com/stress/take-this-stress-test-now/
Kevin Schoeninger, M.A. Certified Trainer and Meditation Instructor

Author Bio: Are you ready to de-stress, quiet your mind, and relax deeply? Discover how to take your stress management to the next level. To take a simple stress test be sure to visit us here:
Kevin Schoeninger M.A. Certified Trainer and Meditation Instructor

Category: Self Help
Keywords: reduce stress, stress hardiness, take charge of your life, how to stop being a victim, handle stress

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