By Bridget Edwards, Stress Expert and Author of the book Stress Gone! How to Identify and Reduce Stress Easily
“Most of the stress we bring on ourselves is because of bad habits and bad attitudes.” - Vikrant Parsai.
Stress can be likened to a coin which we all know has two sides – heads or tails, positive or negative, beneficial or detrimental. With discernment, and a level-headed approach, it is possible to determine how best to handle stress, including daily stressors. Contrary to popular belief, not all stress is negative, or even detrimental. To expand, I would like to share the following aspects for introspection of the stress in your life.
- From a holistic point of view, the dualistic principles that govern all aspects of life naturally govern stress too. In duality both extremes coexist simultaneously, for example hot and cold, electric and magnetic, male verses female etc, and stress is no different. Every stressed situation has a positive solution, and unfortunately for the most part, we don’t easily see solutions when we are stressed. How we elect to see and react to stressful situations is the real issue. Naturally our stressed reactions are unique for every individual – no two people respond to stress in the same way.
- The determining factors of how one perceives stress, either positively or negatively, is governed by an individual’s belief system, their programming and perceptions, but most importantly, their ability to adapt and cope with change without putting up resistance. Resistance saps one’s life-force energy, and is the opposite of acceptance or ‘going with the flow’. The more resistance, the more likely stress will escalate, and the effects are then negative – ‘what you resist, persists!’ Instead, and as best as possible, adopt a positive attitude and mindset, and focus on acceptance while seeking possible solutions to a stressful situation. These two well known sayings help to reiterate this point, ‘what you think about, you bring about’ and ‘what you focus on, expands.’ In other words, the more we stress the more stress we will feel, but the more we focus on finding a solution, the more likely we are to find that solution. For the most part it is important to realise stress is both a matter of perception of the situation, but also a choice of where one decides to place one’s energies – in resisting the situation (negative), or in finding solutions (positive). As such, stress provides a great opportunity for reflection and re-evaluation. This can have a beneficial outcome for even the most stressful of situations.
- It is important to understand the three stress response triggers inherent in all human beings, namely the flight, fight or freeze response, and their effects. Two stress responses drive instinctual action (flight and fight), while the other appears inactive or passive (freeze), and depending upon the circumstances, either one of the three automatic stress responses can be appropriate for one’s overall safety and survival. Since survival is crucial for our existence as human beings, this is another positive aspect of stress.
- Likened to a figurative guide or teacher, stress subtly encourages and at times coerces us to adapt, to cope, to change and to learn new things, new skills and new ways of thinking. At times stress may be painful, particularly as we feel stretched to capacity, torn apart or frayed at the edges but this is how we learn, grow and evolve as human beings. Most importantly, stress expands our awareness and consciousness which is absolutely necessary for man’s evolution. Everything in the Universe is constantly changing, and a person is either growing or dying. I’m sure you will agree, growth is the only path to living successfully.
- Einstein said, “Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result, is the height of insanity.” In stressed situations we so often repeat habitual patterns of behaviour, and temporarily get stuck without realising it. Stressed situations can either control us, or stop us in our tracks (the freeze response). This is where procrastination sets in, we cannot think clearly, creativity and productivity is impaired, memory affected, and in extreme cases, we’re rendered helpless or useless for a moment. With chronic or prolonged stress, these negative effects are exacerbated. This is why I’ve coined the phrase, ‘stress is a dream stealer’. Alternatively, a stressful situation can propel one into action (fight or flight) to seek appropriate solutions and to think out of the box. Perhaps to rise above current abilities or circumstances, and ultimately to make a different, more inspired choice that serves one better i.e. change jobs, leave a relationship, move to another city etc. In this instance, stress is a catalyst, and provides inspiration and motivation for change.
- Over time daily stress can leave one feeling pressured, overwhelmed, exhausted and frayed at the edges. This can create a potential health risk, and possibly place both work and relationships in jeopardy. In this case, we should not be in denial of the effects of our stressful lifestyle but view this as an early warning signal. In this light, the stressful situation should be embraced as a gift and blessing, not a curse. Perhaps now more than ever, it is time for you to make necessary lifestyle changes. Heed those early warnings signals – be alert, aware, open and honest with yourself. Self mastery and understanding is all about self awareness and observation. Don’t play the game of being a martyr because that serves no one, least of all you. In reality, denial, resistance, and stubbornness doesn’t serve you either. These reactions often exacerbate the problem, and create further unnecessary stress. Honest reflection is vitally important when addressing stress and stressors, and when you know what to look out for, there are numerous tell tale or early warning signals calling for your attention. The more you deny, resist and stubbornly refuse, the louder the alarm bells become. Be clear. Be congruent. Without doubt stress is an early warning; take cognisance of that hunch and the tiny inner voice calling out for help.
As a dear friend often said, “Truth is hidden in plain sight”, and so are our solutions to stressful circumstances. We simply need to be open, remove our blinkers and resistance, breath, relax and get ourselves out of the way – again simple, not necessarily easy to do! If all else fails, ask your colleagues, family and friends for honest feedback about the effects of the stress in your life – they’ll tell you the truth if you ask for it.
Since stress is natural, and considered a normal part of life, stress can serve a useful purpose. For many people the daily demands, deadlines, frustrations and hassles are so common that stress has become an accepted way of life. For some people, there is a warped perception that stress, or the amount of stress, is actually indicative of success and therefore a necessary ingredient of success, proudly worn like a ‘badge of honour’ says Dr Lissa Rankin. In other words, success and stress automatically go hand in hand – implying the more stressed or “hectic” you are, the more successful you are. Be careful of that belief and expectation – it is not true. Stress implies strain, resistance, force, exerting willpower, or a refusal to change or accept what is. In other words, you’re not ‘in flow’ and not going with the natural flow of life; instead you’re trying to swim upstream, hence the resultant stress. Living this way is not conducive to successful living; the consequences are both delusional and dire.
I love this word ‘impossible’. It means ‘I’m Possible’. In other words, within me are all possibilities so anything becomes possible – referring back to our innate wisdom where anything and everything becomes a possibility because we are drawing from an infinite resource, or a universal consciousness. When we are stressed, we automatically block solutions from appearing spontaneously. This is why applying breathing and relaxation techniques to stressful situations yield profound results. Conscious breathing refocuses the mind to the body, and the present moment. Relaxation is simple process, but may not be easy to implement – a good example is meditation, which is a simple exercise but it isn’t easy to quieten a busy and stressed mind! I cover a variety of stress relief techniques in my book, Stress Gone! How to identify and reduce stress easily. These simple yet effective techniques can be used in any day-to-day stressful situation regardless of whether you are in a boardroom meeting, giving presentation, stuck in traffic, on the phone or during a heated argument.
When we are clear, focused, relaxed and totally congruent about what it is we want, life usually flows easily and so does the success. The real issue is that most of us are not clear or congruent with what we want, and these conflicting states cause us to vacillate, with stress as the result. Don’t get me wrong, a degree of stress is a necessary ingredient for motivation and inspiration, particularly in order to go above and beyond a perceived limitation.
Essentially personal development and growth hinges upon one’s success (or failure) in handling stress and stressful situations. And, what one learns from these situations boils down to one simple thing; our attitude. Adopting a positive attitude, together with an awake, aware and open mindset will go a long way towards one’s progress and success in life. Right attitude determines right results, and contrary to popular belief, life is constantly supporting us by giving us opportunities to learn and grow.
Stress is so often a gift in disguise, your attitude will determine whether or not you receive the gift, or miss out completely. As the saying goes, ‘when life throws you lemons, make lemonade!’
Bridget Edwards is a South African entrepreneur, author and emotional change catalyst. She is passionate about helping people overcome their emotional obstacles and personal challenges. She does this through speaking engagements, training (workshops), and private consultations. Bridget has authored two self-help books, Anger gone! How to Easily Defeat Anger, and Stress Gone! How to Identify and Reduce Stress Easily. She continues to write self help programs to assist people in dealing with their personal obstacles. www.Bridget-Edwards.com
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