“If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” ― Śāntideva
Last week’s post generated some great discussion about ‘worry’ being a good or bad thing. The great thing is it may have started to shift your perception of worry. And you know what? Feelings can be controlled, and this is no different for worry.
I’d like to share some new insights from last week’s comments, including:
- Time constraints can lead to a level of worry or stress that generates action and productivity. This is a positive side effect (thanks, Vincent and Trev).
- We are able to control our worry or stress levels and utilise it to our advantage (thanks, Amit and Steve)
- Humans have feelings for a reason and this is the same for worry and stress. There is a reason you feel like this, for protection or for action. You can use it to your advantage (thanks, Shawn and Steve)
- Being able to control your worry and use it for good can also generate a level of confidence (Thanks, Amit)
Today, however I’d like to take this conversation to the next phase of worry and look more closely at that word we all dread so much but perhaps feel on a daily basis. This word is so universal and can be so inhibiting that I’m going to spread this topic over two posts. What is that word?
P.S. Is this not the coolest image ever? 🙂
What Exactly is Stress?
I’ve been doing some research on stress and to my surprise I’ve discovered a whole new dimension to what it actually is. So, what is stress? It’s not as clear and simple as you might think.
On first inspection of what stress is, I discovered that it can be broken down into different types, including:
- Time stress (worrying about time or the lack thereof)
- Anticipatory stress (being concerned about the future)
- Situational stress (being in a scary situation you have no control over)
- Encounter stress (worrying about interacting with a certain person or group of people)
This is a common way of thinking about stress. It’s about an emotional state.
However, delving deeper into the topic I discovered that stress is not only limited to the emotional. This in itself is an important concept to understand when it comes to managing stress.
For instance, Paul Check in his book “How to Eat, Move and be Healthy” describes 6 different types of stress. These are:
1) Physical Stress (eg hard workout, surgery bad posture)
2) Nutrional Stress (eg eating processed foods, eating too much or too little, insufficient intake of fats, proteins or carbs).
3) Chemical Stress (eg alchohol, drugs, medications, cleaning products, some beauty products).
4) Emotional Stress (eg fear, worries, anxiety, not living your dream, dysfunctional relationships).
5) Electromagnetic Stress (eg electrical towers, mobile phones)
6) Thermal Stress (eg sunburn or hypothermal)
Now, when we think of stress we normally associate it with the ‘emotional’ state of stress, however it’s important to recognise the other forms of stress. Apparently your adrenals (the glands that produce our stress hormones) can’t tell the difference between the different types of stress.
What this basically means is that your body can’t actually tell the difference between an argument with your partner (emotional) and you forgetting to eat all day (nutritional) and you going for a 20km run (physical) and you lying on the beach all day without sunscreen (thermal).
This may seem all a little strange, however the above is important to note for when you are trying to MANAGE your stress levels. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Why Are Some People Impacted By Stress More Than Others?
Did you know that 90% of your beliefs and your programming are instilled in you before you are 9 years old?
This then has significant impact over the way that each of us deal with stress. It’s due to our prior experiences, and largely due to our experiences in our early years of life.
Let’s look at an example of 2 similar aged people dealing with the same experience and having different stress levels.
A 5 year old boy has a mother who when she sees a spider screams and runs and tells her son to watch out for the spider.
On the other hand, another 5 year old boy has a mother who has a pet spider and is really intrigued about what they can do and educates her son about the spider.
20 years down the track when these boys are now 25 years old, how do you think each person would react if they saw a spider in their room?
The stress levels of the two boys (now men) would be vastly different.
This is the same for other areas of stress in our lives.
For example, if you easily get stressed about public speaking, this would largely be due to your prior experiences (or lack of experience) in doing this. This is the same when you are completing an exam or going into a situation which you may not have been in before.
Simply put, the more you do something, the more comfortable you become with that object or experience. You start to develop neural pathways that can manage your emotional state due to prior experience.
To get a little technical, we perceive the world through our 5 senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste). These senses get filtered to our hypothalamus which is a part of our brain. If we perceive a stress, then this hypothalamus then communicates with our glands to release stress hormones.
What does this mean for you?
Your beliefs can control your levels of stress.
And how are beliefs formed? They are formed through your prior experiences.
Again, managing stress comes back to taking control of your mind and building your emotional intelligence. This is obviously easier said than done. But in my next post I’ll have some great techniques for you to help you manage your stress.
Next week I’m going to share with you some of the best techniques that I personally use for managing stress. But for now, how does stress form in your life? Do you feel the differences between the different types of stress? If you are currently facing stress, what situations are you in that creates this?
Knowing this is all part of building your emotional intelligence and your self-awareness… the building blocks of being able to manage your stress.
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!