The Only Antidote to Your Stress
If you’re like most people living in a fast-paced world, you always wanted to reduce or avoid stress. Everyone in the world right now is probably dreaming for a day when he gets to experience either less stress or no stress at all. People usually equate a less or zero stress experience as their “happiness encounters”. Most people perceive that the more smooth-sailing things go in your life, the happier you get. Imagine a day with absolutely no traffic, no horrifying deadlines of bills or work submissions, no obnoxious bosses, no toxic customers, no uncooperative colleague, no drama from your own family and friends and no stubborn boyfriends or spouses. It’s a perfect life, indeed! However, is this for real – that the less stress you experience, the happier you get? Before we probe on this thought, let me invite you first to answer this Stress-o-Meter. Complete this test in the most honest way as you can.
Indicate TRUE or FALSE on each item. Make sure you have a sheet of paper where you can record your answers.
- I have (or had) experienced stress-related sickness such as migraine, stomach ache, high blood pressure, recurring heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
- I sometimes feel frustrated and negatively affected by the issues I encountered every day such as long lines, traffics, unsatisfactory meal, and other small stuffs. I can hardly let go of these out of my mind. These haunt me as I get through my day angry or upset.
- I pray, meditate or use active relaxing techniques such as listening to music, yoga, or other breathing exercises on a regular basis.
- I initially panic at unexpected problems that come my way but I try to quickly settle down and think about ways on how to solve them.
- After a rough day at work, I have a trouble unwinding at home. I tend to bring home my worries and concerns from work. I can hardly detach myself to it.
- I usually look for, see and share the funny and the brighter side of the stressful situations and use laughter to get myself and my co-workers through it.
- Deadlines don’t usually bother me. I just focus on getting the job done than worrying if the time given to me is enough to deliver what is expected of me.
- I tend to get overwhelmed, frustrated and distraught when too many problems happen at once.
- I occasionally overdue deliverables at work so that I can consciously schedule time to unwind and recharge.
- I occasionally worry but can usually stop myself from obsessing on things outside my control. I usually want to prepare everything and make it fall perfectly into places as planned.
- I’m a “worry wart”. I worry a lot. I often obsess about what might happen. I think this is good in preparing me for the troubles that will come my way.
- Routine problems at home and work don’t fluster me. I usually take and accept what comes and handle them the best way I know how.
Compute your scores using the following guidelines:
For every TRUE on items 1, 5, 8, and 11 add 5 points.
For every TRUE on items 2, 4, 10 and 9 add 3 points.
For every TRUE on items 3, 6, 7 and 12 add 0 points
- Scores between 0 and 10 – indicates that you handle stress in life very well. You are calm, cool and collected while you accept your struggles and you thrive to become the best “you” out of it.
- Scores between 11 and 23 – indicates that you handle stress in life fairly. There may be times when you feel overwhelmed and get stuck for certain duration of time but you are able to get back on your toes by working your way through it.
- Scores between 24 and 32 – indicates that you have a difficulty in handling stress in your life. Sometimes, stress paralyzes you to move forward with your life as you perceive it as overly burdening you. You wish that you want to get out of it as fast as you can.
I wonder what you got there. I have handled workshops and seminars on stress management and even coach a lot of people on how to handle their stress and it is very common how people get to be horrified in dealing with their daily stressors in life. Nonetheless, let us all be mindful that it is almost impossible NOT to experience stress in any levels for as long as we are breathing.
Psychology Today defined stress as our human reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical and mental stability. Thus, it is any situation that gives us tension either physically, mentally or both as a response of a very demanding circumstance we perceive ourselves into. The latest study on stress was released last May 2015 by a Stanford Psychologist, Kelly McGonigal through her book entitled, “The Upside of Stress”. She powerfully mentioned there that, “Stress isn’t always harmful. Once you appreciate that going through stress makes you better at it, it can be easier to face each new challenge. Viewing stress as harmful leads people to cope in ways that are less helpful – whether it’s getting drunk, procrastinating to avoid stress or imagining worst-case scenarios. On the other hand, viewing stress as helpful allows your body to see stress as good and not as a threat to physical health. Your body allows you to rise above the challenge of stress and empower you to become courageous in confronting it while in the same way, you encourage people to cope in their journey, as well.”
Eureka! That’s it! The latest study of Dr. Kelly McGonigal nailed everything you need to know about stress. The only antidote to stress is to PERCEIVE IT as HELPFUL and not harmful. We should learn to treat stress as a friend and not as an enemy. We should strive harder not to get rid of the stress in our lives but rather, we must learn how to embrace it and master ways in handling stress better. This may be a big chunk to chew on but what’s in it for us if we decided to engage ourselves in a discipline of embracing stress? Well, I’ve got a lot in store for you.
1. Stress allows your body to adapt to the challenge (physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually). – Your body and its bodily reactions support and follow only how your mind interprets your stress. During a submission of deadline, if you interpret your boss as a monster who will grab you by the throat and swallow you whole, you will automatically experience shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, irregular bowel syndrome among others. However, if you see the situation with a whole new meaning – like, your deliverable is not just a dragging work to be submitted but a tool to serve, support and sustain the lives of your customers then working on it won’t be too taxing on you. You see your boss as a hands-on trainer who is trying to build you up and not break you down.
2. Stress makes us social. Dr. McGonigal mentioned it that every time we experience stress, our pituitary gland (via our hypothalamus) releases oxytocin, a neuro-hormone which is known as a “cuddle or love hormone”. This is because it is released whenever we hug someone. During a stress response, our oxytocin leads us to become social. It tells you to do things that can strengthen relationships and makes us crave for physical contact (like hug, handshake, etc.). It even enhances our empathy and compassion for other people. It allows us to care. Whenever we experience difficult moments in our lives, our oxytocin tells us not to confront all of these feelings alone. It tells us that being with people you love most builds your resilience. Most importantly, when you care about people other than yourself, you are making yourself not only resilient to your troubles but invincible. The more you care about other people aside from yourself, the more you become undefeatable. This made me recall a turning-point of my life when I was in College when my parents were burdened with my overwhelming tuition fees. Looking back, I don’t know where I got the strength of showing up on class, engaging myself to thrice a week track and field practice sessions (for long-distance running just to get at least a portion of my tuition discount), commuting every weekday from Katipunan to Commonwealth Quezon City to teach my Korean classmates and students as their part-time English Teacher. Now I know that apart from my faith, I have to be grateful for my oxytocin. I just could not stand seeing my parents and sister exhaust themselves to work. I must act in the best way I know how. I know you have that similar experience, too.
3. Positive stress response creates new neuro-pathways that lead to self-mastery in handling stress. Dr. McGonigal mentioned that responding stress positively by confronting it with courage allows you to obtain a “vaccine” out of it. When I had my chickenpox and getting well from it, it made me stronger from that kind of virus. I may have talked to people who has that virus but it does not anymore break me. It’s the same thing. The more you handle stress positively, the more you get stronger as a person. You develop a habit of confronting it with courage, thinking of ways on how to solve it and moving yourself forward
Perceiving stress positively like treating it as a skill to be learned is comparable to a baby attempting to stand and to walk. Each motion can give the baby amounts of pain and doubts because, he is not used to it. It’s his first attempt. As long as he keeps on trying to stand firm on the ground, placing his one little foot in front of the other just so he can reach his waiting Mother on the other side, he gets to achieve his balance and his strength. Amusingly, his physical and or mental tensions are no longer important. Reaching his loving mother on the other side as his goal, gives new meaning to move forward despite of his wobbly limbs. He’d rather reach that side with his Mother painfully as his goal, than being stuck in his playground alone and comfortable. Remember, no amount of stress can ever bring you down to your knees if you put meaning to what you do, you are willing to act upon it and you believe with all your heart, that you can handle this. Be undefeatable!