What’s worse Stress or your perception of the stressful event? Research confirms that the perception of stress can be more relevant than the stress itself. I’ve thought this fact to be true for years; it’s our perception of stress that can be more harmful than the stressor itself.
You and I each perceive and deal with stressful situations differently. Imagine, todays the date you are mountain climbing or flying from New York to Europe. What’s your initial reaction? Excitement, fear, motivation? Some of you are pumped and others have a stomachache caused by nerves. The events are the exact same for all but the perception of fun, safety, or fear differ based upon each person’s personality, past experiences and perception. What’s even more exciting is you can incorporate certain lifestyle behaviors/actions to enable you to perceive stressful events in a way that motivates you rather than cripples you.
It is also important to know that each person can handle a finite amount of stress well before it becomes overwhelming. Stress is exercising (too much or too little), the food you eat, lack of sleep, the food choices you make, relationships (love, family, friendship and sexual), allergies, illness and your reaction to situations and events, among many other stressors.
- Your perception of your own stress makes a huge difference. Here is hard data to back this up. If you think your stress is having a huge impact on your health, it likely is. In a study of 180+ million adults, individuals who perceived that stress affects their health and reported a large amount of stress had an increased risk of premature death. The good news is that you can change the way you handle stress by proactively working to change your ability to process it and handle it.
Action Items to change your perception of stressful events:
- Add dark leafy greens, fish and grass fed beef filled with Vitamin B into your diet. Vitamin B’s are quickly depleted when you’re experiencing stress, therefore; your perception of stress can get magnified, making it feel more overwhelming than it is.
- Except and expect that certain situations are not what you want and take pro-active action to downplay the stressful situation, such as traffic, commuting.
- Work on your mindset. Find some good in potentially stressful situations. Example- I’m in a situation now that I perceive as stressful, a plane with some turbulence. I’m focusing on the positive that the flight attendants are still up and walking around, I’ve been through this before and it will pass, I always land safely.
- When evaluating your stress, distinguish between daily annoyances that will happen no matter what and life events. It’s important to think about the daily hassles that put stress on your life and try to eliminate, change or head off as many stressors as possible. For instance, rather than becoming a hot head about traffic and being on time, leave earlier, take the train or decide to listen to an audiobook or stress reduction podcast while driving.
- Unchecked Stress can literally affect you physically; impact your coordination and how your muscles recover from exercise.In fact stress often stops people from feeling like exercising which exacerbates the perception of stress. Sitting on your butt leaves you more frazzled. Get to the gym, exercise within your capacity, but do something. Dial it down; choose rowing over running, stretching or functional training rather than HIIT or cardio heavy workouts. Yale University research shows regular sweating is a top stress reducer.
- Coping with stress is individual. What helps you to manage stress? Massage, Exercise, Talking about it, solving it, or avoiding it? Create a list of situations you know stress you out and brainstorm solutions for them. Get more sleep, eat better, purposely change a negative thought to a positive one, Use the Waze app to avoid traffic, keep a journal with what stressed you or upset you (writing it down, releases it so you can move on)
- Inquire about Stress Management Programs at Work
Start a group at work which implements different techniques at work. Stress management should be part of every Corporate Wellness strategy. Consider weekly meditation, group workouts, essential oils in the office, CSA veggie delivery to the office, or healthy snacks available at the office
Need help dealing with stress? Check out these additional resources below.