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Decrease Stress with a Change of Focus

Updated on April 18, 2023
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise has struggled with mental illness most of her life. She also has family members with mental illness. She speaks from experience.

Stress is a reaction when we are faced with a difficult situation that we don't know if we are prepared to handle. The bodies systems are on full alert.
Stress is a reaction when we are faced with a difficult situation that we don't know if we are prepared to handle. The bodies systems are on full alert. | Source

What is Stress?

Stress is the reaction our body makes when faced with a difficult task or opposing force that requires additional concentration, physical exertion, or mental strain. Recognize stress by its telltale signs:

  • rapid heartbeat
  • increased stomach activity
  • sweat
  • muscle tension
  • increased saliva
  • headache
  • eye strain

These symptoms say that increased blood is pumping through the circulatory system, the nerves are on edge, and digestion has accelerated. The "fight or flight" response we have in a crisis situation has similar warning signs. If stress is sufficient, we either solve the problem or escape the situation.

Events that are seen as stressful differ from one person to another. Being called to the boss' office may be a welcome relief to the employee that is hoping for a raise, while the employee who is having issues with the person in the cubicle next door may see a summons to the office as a sign that something bad is about to happen. Our perspective on the events that happen in our lives increases or decreases our stress. Increased activity is either a ticket to more adventure, or simply is more on the "to do list."

Stress enables us to become more than we ever thought we could be.
Stress enables us to become more than we ever thought we could be. | Source

Perspective Determines Stress

The way we look at what happens to us in our world determines the amount of stress we experience. Every event that occurs is processed through our memory bank before we react. If the event was experienced previously, our automatic reaction is based on our interpretation of what happened at that time, how we responded to it, and the resulting outcome.

If the outcome we recall was a positive one, we see the event as positive and consider it to our advantage that it happened again. If the outcome we experienced was negative, we perceive the event as a difficult experience, and it will add to our level of stress that we are currently experiencing.

There are many checklists available that indicate how stressful events are, and how they affect a person, but in reality, our situation may not reflect that at all. If one has experienced unemployment, and has finally found a job in another city, a move to that place may be seen as a great opportunity rather than a stressful event. Should the move come as a result of a difficult family situation, it may be seen as very stressful.

How do you perceive the following life events?

Life Event
Get to be with desired companion
Have to invite undesirable relatives
Birth of a child
Add additional loved one to family
Unwed pregnancy
Starting School
Looking forward to social activity
Being away from beloved parent or sibling
Death of Grandparent
End of suffering after years of illness
Lonely for companionship
New start
Have to set up new service providers
Getting laid off
Grateful for severance pay
Have to find a new job
Receiving a raise
More money coming in
Increase in tax liability
Chronic Illness
Able to slow down and take it easy
Life is cut short

Each life event can be seen in either a positive or a negative light, and how we perceive the event determines the stress level we experience.

As we change our focus and find out what it is causing us difficulty, we can usually find the source of the stress and resolve it to our satisfaction.
As we change our focus and find out what it is causing us difficulty, we can usually find the source of the stress and resolve it to our satisfaction. | Source

Changing Our Point of View

As we change our perspective on the life situations that we are facing, we change the amount of stress we experience. Every circumstance has negative and positive aspects. Our automatic reaction will be the one that we are most familiar with. Our memories will give the deciding vote.

We can change our course by changing our focus. Either we look at the negative aspects of the experience, if that is what our memory is bringing to the forefront, or we change our focus to the positive. Changing to the positive requires some skills.

There is some particular aspect of the event or experience that makes it stressful. Perhaps there is something about it we do not like, a person involved that we have a difficult relationship with, or we have to do something that will require additional learning and understanding. Changing that one thing requires the following skills:

1. Faith - we believe that a change will be beneficial to us.

2. Desire - we want to make that change.

3. Commitment - we stick with the decision once it is made.

4. Resolve - we keep going in the new direction, determined to make things better.

5. Relax - the change of focus allows us to relax, and the stress dissipates.

We change our level of stress by seeing things from a different perspective. We find that life is much more pleasant that we had originally thought, and we enjoy it a more. Decrease stress with a change of focus.


I thought I had it all worked out, that I was in control. But all these unexpected things have now taken their toll. I feel bogged down and overwhelmed, I don’t know what to do! I can’t believe the lace is broken on my brand new shoe! Where are those laces anyway, I bought some at the store! Who took them from the cupboard here? I saw them once before!

I don’t have time to make a plan, but I need one, I think! I must sit down and make a list, or soon I’m going to sink! What is happening in my life that set it in a spin? What commitments do I have right now, what activities am I in? What is most important here? I cannot see the light! Who can help me find a way? Who’ll help me win the fight?

Oh, help me, Lord! I know that I’ve been somewhat of a brat! I want to change my ways today, and do better than that. I want to get back in control of what is in my life. I want to rid my soul of pain, adversity and strife. I just want to be perfect, like you said that I should be, but things keep getting in the way! Please help me to see!

Dear child, you have not understood the plan that is in place. Without adversity in life, you would not win the race. Your muscles would not be as strong as they will need to be. Your mind would not be keen and quick, with no adversity. The oak needs roots deep in the soil for it to stand the wind, and you need opposition in your life, for you the race to win.

Just Relax

Are you tense and anxious from a hard day at work? Does the noise of your kids make you act like a jerk? Life sometimes gives lemons when you want lemonade, just follow this counsel and you've got it made. Find a place that’s quiet in your very own home; a room left empty from a child that does roam, an office where you can remove the work pile, or perhaps your own bedroom, just lie down a while.

If home is a problem, then get in your car. Just look around, you won’t have to go far. Find a spot on a silent street, turn on some music that’s soft and sweet. Recline, lean back, and rest your head, let go of concerns and worries and dread. Picture some clouds gliding lazily by, or making castles in the sky. Go to a seashore where the tide is low, and watch the seagulls come and go.

Picture yourself on your Grandfather’s farm, or lying peacefully in your mother’s arm. Find yourself floating on a trickling brook, or lying in the sun with a really good book. Wherever it is that you want to go, your mind will simply let you know. You will find peace and serenity and be in heavenly company. God is very close, life is precious indeed. And relaxing is something we all need.

"Stressed" and "Just Relax" are essays written by Denise W. Anderson.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Denise W Anderson


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