How Stress is Misunderstood and What There is To Do About It
How Stress Impacts You and Your Family, and Why “Avoiding” Stress is Not the Answer
How we think about stress matters
In commonplace everyday conversation, stress is referred to as if it is an emotion or a feeling, as such,“I feel stressed.” How we typically refer to stress, more specifically, how you relate to stress, and how you understand stress makes all the difference when practicing to live your life stress-free.
Another common misconception about stress is that we often perceive the source of stress to be external. Of course it may very well be true that there are players at play in the drama of your life. Likewise, there are circumstances beyond your control happening in proximity to you. So, you experience these factors as inconvenient or troublesome. You will better understand stress when you acknowledge that stress happens internal to your experience, rather not as much of an external-cause and bad-effect-on-me as you’ve thought.
Last, not least, how we talk about dealing with stress confuses the issue. Particularly, you don’t “manage” stress. What there is to manage is your experience and how the world occurs for you. Thus, there is no stress for you right now because of how you consider the world impacts you right now rather than how the world is actually coming at you right now.
Stress is a set of symptoms, and not how you feel when you’re affected by stress
Sure, there are “stressors” in your known world: Circumstances, factors, the behavior of other people. Yet, there is no absolute truth about what a “stressor” is because what may be a stressor for you may not be a stressor for him, her, or me. Another way to consider a stressor is to understand it as a trigger to which you may react one way, and to which I may react another way.
So, there are external stressors, some are triggers for you and some are triggers for me. Then there are conditions that set the stage for the onset stressfulness. Ultimately, there are symptoms of the stress. Sometimes we can do something about stressors, sometimes we cannot. Once we experience symptoms, there are sometimes remedies medicinal or otherwise that can alleviate the symptoms. It is valuable to recognize that your experience of stress is a set of symptoms — and then there is how you feel about the symptoms.
It is helpful to realize and to talk about stressfulness as if, “My heart is racing,” and, “I feel helpless to calm down.” Or perhaps, “I am physically fatigued,” and, “I am worried that being fatigued means I won’t enjoy myself at the party tonight.” There are symptoms. There is how you feel and what you think about your symptoms (or perhaps about something else altogether). De-couple the, “I am so stressed,” statement; it’s a fallacy. Now, you can do something about the symptom, and you can be proactive to rationally consider your situation and regulate your emotions to be appropriate for your situation.
Symptoms of stressfulness are the consequences of the conditions that set the stage for stressfulness. Since the conditions that set the stage for stress are all about you, the good news is that you can be empowered to be proactive to alleviate your symptoms, as well as, live a life free of so-called stress.
Stress is bad, but not only necessarily why you think it is
The symptoms of stress are bad for your experience right-now, your short-term effectiveness, your long-term health, your relationships and, if you’re a woman planning to become pregnant, for your soon-to-be-fetus and the development of your child in-utero.
Fortunately, references and resources abound on the Internet to support the assertion that symptoms of stressfulness are bad for you, pre-pregnancy conditioning of a woman’s body, and the development of child in the womb:
PHYSIOLOGY & NEUROBIOLOGY IMPACTS OF STRESS
How stress affects your body (reference: YouTube video below)
The LIVESTRONG Foundation classifies stress under “Diseases and Conditions”: LIVESTRONG.COM | Diseases and Conditions | Mental and Behavioral Conditions | Stress. LIVESTRONG.COM offers diet, nutrition and fitness tips for a healthier lifestyle.
According to the HeartMath Institute: Stress Is on the Rise: Take Action! HeartMath Institute researches and develops reliable, scientifically-based tools that bridge the connection between heart and mind and deepen people’s connection with the hearts of others. This empowers people to greatly reduce stress, increase resilience and unlock their natural intuitive guidance for making better choices. The mission of the HeartMath Institute is to help people bring their physical, mental and emotional systems into balanced alignment with their heart’s intuitive guidance. This unfolds the path for becoming heart-empowered individuals who choose the way of love, which they demonstrate through compassionate care for the wellbeing of themselves, others and Planet Earth.
IMPACTS OF STRESS ON FAMILY PLANNING, PREGNANCY & PRENATAL DEVELOPMENT
Prenatal Programming of Human Neurological Function (reference: image below)
Preterm Birth (birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy) and Stressful Life Events (reference: image below)
Prelude to Parenthood: The Impact of Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy: Carol Cornsweet Barber (2012). Prelude to Parenthood: The Impact of Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy, Perinatal Depression, Dr. María Graciela Rojas Castillo (Ed.), InTech, DOI: 10.5772/32076.
SYMPTOMS OF STRESS ARE BAD FOR YOU, AND THEY CAN ALSO SEEM ADDICTIVE
What may have been missed when exploring the effects of stressors in the body is that you can condition yourself to crave the experience of power and emotional highs that come from the rush of the neuro-chemicals and body-brain responses to stressors. Thus, you have also conditioned yourself to seek-out stressors to prompt the release of neuro-chemicals and body-brain responses. This cyclical syndrome is the source of traits we conversationally come to refer to about others as “workaholics” or “adrenaline junkies.”
OPPORTUNITY COSTS OF LIVING WITH STRESS
There are, no doubt, direct-impact implications of stressfulness on your health and well-being and the health of a child under development during pregnancy.
At GREAT FUTURE NOW Coaching, we empower you to take-on the impacts in your life and the opportunity costs of the habits, expectations, and decisions by which you live your life and lead to the symptoms of stress noted previously. I am borrowing a term here coined within the discipline of economics, opportunity cost:
Simply put, when you do this, rather than that, you gave-up the opportunity of (and potential benefits and value that may have come from) doing that.
So get this: When you live with the symptoms of stressfulness, you have given-up the joys and rewards that come with living stress-free.
When you’re out to avoid stress, you’re “stressing-out”
There is a lesser-known, and even lesser-understood, attribute of human nature that I will refer to as The (Mis-)Perception of Opposites.
The etymology (study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history) of the word, opposite, says a lot about the general cultural biases of humanity:
opposite (adj.) late 14c., “placed on the other side of (something),” from Old French oposite “opposite, contrary” (13c.), from Latin oppositus “standing against, opposed, opposite,” past participle of opponere “set against” (see opponent). Meaning “contrary in nature or character” is from 1570s.Oppositely.
By the time we are adolescents, it seems to be hard-wired into each of us that every aspect of Nature, Humanity, science, ethics, morality, et al, has a “pro” and a “con,” an opposite, or a positive and a contrapositive. If there is good, then there must be bad. There is up, and so there is down. Fast, slow. Smart, dumb. You get it. You believe that is always so.
Much scientific study has been undertaken by mankind. Science provides evidence of phenomena, such as, force versus resistance to force, as well as, the emergence of life as seemingly an uprising of potential energy output and the decay of a living body as seemingly a diminishing of potential energy. Here’s the thing, and we don’t want this to get too complicated…
The thing is that “common sense” is often not intellectually-sound logic. There is not actually a direct antithetical corollary between, let’s say, life and death or push and pull or slow and fast or so forth. Is the opposition of positive magnetism negative magnetism or the absence of perceivable magnetism? Our mind wants life, the universe, and everything to be simply predictable and understood, but it just ain’t so.
All of this perspective is preparation so that you consider this:
The opposite of stressfulness is not actively avoiding stressfulness. Actually, there is no opposite to stressfulness. As a matter of fact, when you actively concern yourself with and act to avoid stressfulness, you are generating perceptions and conditions for the onset of the symptoms of stressfulness.
Perceiving an opposite where there is not a true correlation in science or Nature for correlative opposition only creates the very option to be avoided for the mind-body to consider taking-on optionally. Put another way:
Imagine and create for yourself a lifestyle of fitness, peace-of-mind, mental resilience, gratefulness, and enjoyment. Engage in pursuits for living well and enthusiastically. (End-up with a stress-free life without ever concerning yourself with the bogeyman of stress.)
HOW YOU SEE IT IS HOW YOU BRING THE JUICE
Author and motivational speaker, Dr. Wayne Dyer, told a simple story many years ago that is applicable here. To paraphrase, likely not as elegantly as he shared the story, the story goes something like this:
What do you get when you squeeze an orange? (The answer is so obvious that you first think that there must be a more clever answer.) Orange juice. You get orange juice from an orange when you squeeze it. When someone or some scenario squeezes you, what comes out is what you have going-on inside you. You bring the juice: Sweet, or acidic, or otherwise.
Once again, to the point, avoiding stressors is not the opposite of experiencing the symptoms of stressfulness within you. Avoiding stressors is bringing-on the energy and actions and frame-of-mind of avoiding and resisting about which you could otherwise practice being easy-going or resilient.
What’s more, if you are experiencing the symptoms of stressfulness, you may not be able to immediately alleviate a symptom per se (except for, let’s say, an analgesic for a headache) yet you can be empowered and practiced at mastering how you relate to your emotions and how you feel about what’s happening to you. Practice re-considering how your experience occurs for you. Practice not being a reaction so much as deciding how you will act given your perceptions of your situation.
Stress: It’s all about you
The reality of what we call “stress” is this:
There are conditions that set the stage for the onset of the symptoms of stressfulness within you. Symptoms of stressfulness within you are are the consequences of the conditions that set the stage for stressfulness. The conditions that set the stage for stress are all about you.
The way to look at stress so that you are empowered to master your practice of living a great life (that happens to be stress-free) is to acknowledge: You are responsible for the conditions that set the stage for the onset of the symptoms of stressfulness within you. Let’s break that down…
Being responsible in this conversation is not like a moral-imperative to be responsible (or else you are being irresponsible). Being responsible here means that you can merely choose to say to yourself, “I am the only one who can deal with my stress, and I can deal with my stress.”
The conditions that set the stage for stress are all about you: Are you physically fit? Do you pause often to breathe deeply? Do you take changing circumstances in stride? Do you view how others act toward you as their problem, and not yours? Do you take time to prioritize and organize your life? If you answer, No, to any of these questions, then there are efforts you can take to practically set the stage to live stress-free.
Most importantly, consider these questions: Do you crave alone-time or often feel that you need “your own space”? Do you feel emotionally spent or drained throughout the day, at the end of the day, or at the end of the week? Do you often feel like you wish you had said what was left unsaid when talking with other people? Do you evaluate your performance and results at work or in your lifestyle according to whether you worked at it hard enough or not? If you answer, Yes, to any of these questions, then it is likely that your view of the expectations of others and even your expectations of yourself are not authentic for you; or put another way, you are not living according to values that are true for you how you really want to live your life.
Maintaining your well-being, you may save your life, and save your family some heartache too
How responsible you are for your well-being, maintaining your ideal state-of-mind and the conditions of your body wellness, give you your degree of susceptibility to stressfulness and also your capacity to perform effectively and to enjoy your life. Also, how you care for yourself impacts your family too, your children, your spouse, and really everyone around you. Rather than living a life of, as they say, “managing your stress.” How about living a life of the best possible conditions and your most empowered ways of being so you have no symptoms of stressfulness to manage?
There are many ways you can take-on being responsible for living well (and, thus, being stress-free).
WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE BODY IS GOOD FOR THE MIND AND SPIRIT
HOLISTIC CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR BODY — AND YOUR FAMILY — IS AN ATTAINABLE AND INVALUABLE GOAL
The social action community, Healthy Kids, Healthy Families, and its leader, Holistic Health and Nutritional Consultant, Lucy del Campo, are championing best-practices for living healthy and maintaining ideal nutrition for the everyday living of real families like you and me. Please refer to these resources for all the know-how and consultation you need to achieve the best nutrition and health care for you, your family planning, and your thriving family today.
WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE MIND AND SPIRIT IS GOOD FOR THE BODY
Countless studies demonstrate the benefits of being connected with each other in friendship and in nurturing relationships. Have fun, love others, be grateful. Be diverse in your interests and creative about what you are willing to discover that may be as yet unknown passions for you.
Personally, I enjoy singing loud and proud having fun and laughter during an evening of karaoke with friends and family. I also find sublime pleasure practicing and learning alone, as well as, performing live music with my harmonica. I also consistently and frequently practice five-minute meditations and exercises for present-now mindfulness and awareness.
All of these lifestyle choices — authentic for me — and well-being practices are good for my blood pressure and the balanced flow of my neuro-chemicals, as well as, my spirited gratefulness and enthusiasm for life.
Enlighten your mind, evolve your actions, and live a great life (that just happens to be stress-free)
As mentioned earlier, how you relate to stress and understand stress makes all the difference when practicing to live your life stress-free. Also, if your view of the expectations of others and even your expectations of yourself are not authentic for you, then you are likely not living according to values that are most true for you who you really want to be. GREAT FUTURE NOW Coaching provides coaching for living, loving, working, and playing authentically and Self-determined, some of the benefits and rewards of which are experiencing your life as flow and relaxation and with greater capacity for on-demand arousal and control (thusly stress-free).
There are at least two approaches to behavior change (that can yield a life that just so happens to be stress-free):
APPROACH 1: Cognitive discernment and acceptance, in other words, “changing your mind” about what has been/is true for you; put yet another way, adopting a new belief, sometimes displacing another belief.
APPROACH 2: Neuro-linguistic Programming (well known as NLP) is a method of influencing brain behavior (thus “neuro”) through the use of language (thus “linguistic”) and other types of communication to enable a person to “recode” the way the brain responds to stimuli (thus “programming”) and manifest new and better behaviours. NLP sometimes incorporates hypnosis and self-hypnosis to help achieve the change (or “programming”) that is wanted.
Cognitive discernment and acceptance, the specialization of GREAT FUTURE NOW Coaching, can be distinguished from NLP as follows: NLP is considered a solution rooted in the assertion that habits can be re-hardwired regardless of what you think that you think of your views or your beliefs.
Whereas cognitive discernment and acceptance is a practice of self-awareness, perception and communication such that mastery of intellectual context, language, and emotional relevance impact your views and beliefs and drive you to behave correlated to adaptive views and authentic beliefs.
The promise of GREAT FUTURE NOW Coaching is that Now is when your life is happening. (Not in the inaccurately and dramatically remembered past, and not in some imagined unreal vision of the future rooted-in-fear… Which is always just a poor recollection of the past being echoed into an imaginary future anyway.)
What if Now is so easy, simple yet profound, full of richness, what matters most to you, true to what you value most, and joyful? You can live your life, moment by moment, as if now is the great future you’ve imagined for yourself and for your family.
Stressfulness happens, so then what?
Perhaps you came to this article experiencing stressfulness now. Living a life of health and well-being is yet to come. So what is there to do as stressfulness is what seems to be happening here and now?
First, it’s helpful to talk about what feels like emotional and intellectual symptoms of stressfulness as “internal weather.” When your feelings and thoughts are negatively-charged and tumultuous, the truth is that they are not sustainable for the long-term. Like a bad storm, “This too shall pass.” Wisdom handed-down through the ages.
Now is the time to awaken your intellectual “weatherman.” (Though “weatherman” is colloquial, there’s no need to be gender-biased here, so the proverbial “weatherperson” will of course get the job done.) Your internal weather-knowledgeable persona can assess the “air pressure” and “wind speed” of the your internal bad weather and can direct you to take appropriate action to keep your head down for a while, go for a walk, perhaps take a cool shower, or sip a warm tea or coffee until the inclement weather-within passes.
On the one hand, let’s not make light of your suffering if your stressfulness feels all too stormy or tornadic. On the other hand, let’s do lighten-up your assessment of your experience of your symptoms of stressfulness just for now.
Now, let’s use the 5 Steps to Overcome the “Feeling Stressed” Moments…
Five steps to overcome the “feeling stressed” moments
Now that I’ve got your attention, I enthusiastically recommend the following practice when you are experiencing “feeling stressed.”
(1.) Notice your posture
Don’t do anything in particular about it, just notice it. Then, you will automatically do what comes naturally.
(2.) Notice your breathing
Again, don’t do anything in particular about it, just notice it. Again, you will automatically do what comes naturally. Often, you realize you were not breathing, and you instinctively breathe easy and deeply.
(3.) Count backward from five aloud to yourself
Count backward from five aloud to yourself (softly if you like): Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
(4.) Meditate or Practice Being Present-in-the-Moment
Optionally, now may be an ideal state of awareness and presence in the moment to meditate, even briefly, or to practice an exercise for present-now mindfulness and self-awareness.
(5.) Un-collapse the, “I am so stressed,” statement
Remember that, “I am so stressed,” is a fallacy. What is actually happening is: You are experiencing a symptom of stressfulness. Simultaneously, you are feeling and/or thinking something related to (or not) the symptom. Now, you can do something to alleviate the symptom, and you can be proactive to rationally consider your situation and regulate your emotions to be appropriate for your situation.
Be your own internal-weather forecaster
At-first, internal weather seemingly shifts organically like Nature’s naturally-occurring weather patterns. Yet, when you practice mindfulness of your present moment and self-awareness, you are listening and looking for how life occurs for you, as well as, how you can be responsible for your well-being right here, right now. With practice, it is possible for you to predict your own internal weather patterns such that you can actually call for an internal sunny day whenever you want it.