The Collins Dictionary states that the word ‘stress’ means:
“...mental, emotional, or physical strain or tension...”
Doesn’t look like much fun, does it?
So it’s completely understandable that we have a negative connotation to it. Stress; avoid it at all costs otherwise you become ill.
It creates psychological, emotional, physical and physiological distress. Then there comes the stage where the body almost craves these sensations even though they aren’t good for us. Like an addiction. Some of us feel we can’t function unless we’re feeling the pressure on us.
I feel for ‘stress’. I think it gets a bad rap.
But what if I was to tell you that ‘stress’ can also be good?
That it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to distress? And what if I told you that you actually NEED stress in your life?
Yep. The thing is when you read the above statement you’re still seeing stress as a negative thing. Let me explain how the opposite can be true.
When you are stressed (in the negative context) cortisol and adrenaline are released to help the body prepare for the possibility of needing to fight or run like hell (think caveman situation). These hormones create an increased heart rate, narrowing of arteries, increased blood pressure, sweat, clammy hands, super focussed mind and nervousness throughout the body.
When you are stressed (in the positive context) cortisol and adrenaline are released to help the body prepare for the possibility of becoming too giddy or too super chill (think euphoria situation). These hormones create an increased heart rate, narrowing of arteries, increased blood pressure, sweat, clammy hands, super focussed mind and nervousness throughout the body.
Can you see?
Physically and physiologically the body experiences exactly the same things. It is our perception behind what creates these symptoms that are different and put differing pressures on our systems. Having said that, having too much of either negative or positive stress can tire our system out.
So with that understanding – the next thing that often comes into the conversation is the feeling that we can’t do anything about it:
“I can’t make my body switch to what I would rather have.”
is what one client said to me.
But oh yes you can!
As amazingly complex and wonderful as our bodies and minds are, they are conversely very simplistic too – in the most loving way!
Let’s imagine a simple body outline and let’s put into the situation a stressor (maybe a bit of anxiety). Now imagine this anxiety vibe latching to the hormones being released because our brain is sensing there is stress happening. Our body is now gearing up for the possibility that we may have to stand our ground on something or hide away from something.
And then this is where we come in...
We do have control over our conscious thoughts and right now, the mind has set up an anxiety space. Let us now imagine that we are talking to our mind and we nicely let it know:
“No, no. That’s not anxiety I’m feeling but excitement. This is more exciting than it is scary.”
And your mind will question that at first but you will re-emphasise that it is indeed excitement and not fear. Now the mind will send a message out to state:
“Actually, sorry, this is excitement, not anxiety. Excitement vibe to the fore, please and thank you.”
And before you know it, the anxiety vibe is melting away and is being replaced by the excitement vibe yet because the symptoms that both create in the body are the same, it does not sense a major shift and so is ok with this situation now being about excitement and not anxiety. And the more we do this the less anxious and fearful we feel when the hormones are released and the more excited and happy we will feel because over time the mind’s first thought when a situation with similar symptoms presents itself will be “Oh this must be an exciting situation” and call on the excitement vibe first.
Now that we can manipulate/coax (delete as you see fit!) our mind and body’s reaction to stress, why do we need to have it in our lives anyway?
Well if we had no stress whatsoever, quite frankly we would end up doing absolutely sod all in life. We actually need a level of stress to even get up in the morning because we need our systems to increase our heart rate and narrow our arteries to increase our blood pressure so we can pump the blood into the muscles and our head so we can physically get up out of bed. Zero stress means we physically cannot get out of bed. Adding negative elements of stress to the equation means we also don’t want to get up out of bed. Changing that to a more positive element of stress means we will feel better about wanting to get up for the day (this is why professionals often suggest having something grateful and positive to think about in the morning) and consequently physiologically our bodies are then geared to us actually physically getting up out of bed because we’ve kicked the hormones into play that will help us do that and they will have the excitement vibe attached to them instead of the anxiety vibe.
As your day progresses, similar scenarios play out:
Feeling the pressure of backed-up commuting traffic? Turn up the radio and belt out a song instead of grasping the steering wheel tightly and cursing under your breath.
Having to stand up to present to a group on something you’re not feeling that fabulous about? Tell your mind how amazing you are to get up and talk where others wouldn’t.
Feeling uncertain about going out to meet a group of friends you haven’t seen in a long while? Think about the exciting stories and laughter that are going to fly around the room as you look to catch up on each other’s lives.
Do you see? Stress is a part of our everyday life. We actually need it. If we need our bodies to react to help us function with stress isn’t it better that we release more of the happy vibes to do the same job?
I think so.
Maybe you “get” what I’m saying but are still struggling with how it can apply to your own circumstances or maybe I haven’t explained it well enough here and you want to understand more about how your body and mind are affecting how you are living your life. Either way, get in touch with me here. We can have a quick chat to see if we both can work together to help you be better in this area and we can plan together what that will look like.
If getting in touch with me is creating a bit of angst and nervousness, think about how I am just a normal person who is interested in people being the best they possibly can be and that I won’t be pushy or insist that you must work with me (this is totally not me!!). When we have an initial chat there is absolutely no expectation from me or from you that it will go beyond a chat. We only talk about payments and sessions if we are BOTH happy with how the initial chat goes and we both feel that working with me is the best thing for you.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Collins. (N.D). Definition of 'stress'. Retrieved from Collins Dictionary: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/stress
© YMR Coaching & Development
Yvonne has qualifications in Coaching, Positive Psychology, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and believes in continual personal development. She is currently based in the UK and also has life and work experience in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. She helps with mindset wellbeing and change which includes significant relocations. She is contactable for client availability, public speaking events and media enquiries here: https://www.ymrcoaching.com/helpful-links