15 November 2011


Every day we are subjected to stress. Stress comes in many forms and can be easily triggered by external and internal factors. An uncomfortable setting or situation can instigate it. A heated exchange between significant others, the pressures of school work, a negative thought, and the loss of a loved one are a few examples of stress-inducing scenarios. For the purposes of this post, I am only going to write about those stresses over which we have some control. According to dictionary.com, one of the definitions of stress is (and I quote directly from the website) 'the physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another; strain.' I think on some occasions, this physical and emotional pressure is instigated by none other than ourselves. That is to say, that we have control over how we respond to certain situations and our stress level will be impacted as a result. That explains why in some cases, one person may react strongly and become subsequently very much affected and stressed out by a certain event, while a similar event might have very little impact on another person.

Think about the last time you got stressed. For me, it was a comment directed at me. When I say stressed, for me that means feeling irritated, annoyed, angry, and frustrated. Symptoms of stress that I often experience range from chest tightness to sweaty palms. There are a wide-range of emotional and physical responses to stress. Going back to the last time I felt stressed, it was after I was on the receiving end of a remark that someone made about me to another person, in my presence, in the form of a joke. It seemed harmless enough, and at first I did not take it to heart. However, the more I analyzed it, the more I felt the stress garner strength. Another person may have decided to let the same comment go, while I elected to analyze it, causing the physical and emotional pressure to rise and finally boil over. I focused on my thoughts about the comment so intently that it was no longer just a benign comment, but rather an insult.

It was not the comment itself that made me irritated. It was what happened afterward, in my mind; in my thought-process. Had I not paid so much attention to the comment and rather let it fade into obscurity within moments of its utterance, my stress level would not have been impacted to such an extreme. This is something to consider. For instance, the next time rudely cuts you off on the highway or acts undeservingly brash toward you, monitor your response. Are you shouting obscenities overtly or under your breath? Are you thinking critical thoughts about yourself or about the other person. What is going on with you physically? If your emotional and physical reaction is noticeable, there is pressure being exerted. The good news is that as quickly as you created the stress, you can undo it.

It all goes back to that famous expression that states that only you have control over your words and actions. Each day we are bombarded by potential stressors. People say and do as they see fit. We have no control over the actions of others. Furthermore, things happen. We will encounter less than pleasant situations. Unpleasant situations are inevitable. This is life. This does not mean we sigh and bow down in defeat and merely accept that we must feel down, angry, anxious, (insert negative emotion here) because of what happens when we are just going about our daily business. We have the power to control our thinking so as to minimize stress and feel okay, even when confronted by ignorance or ill-intent. We can elect to accept and let go of our thoughts about the event, rather than analyzing the thoughts, and letting them linger. In this manner, stress may abate just as it threatens to surface.

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