‘How We Perceive Stress Part 1’ written by Dr Suzanne Henwood and published in Great Health Guide (July 2017). Do you get worried easily or feel dread about certain situations in your life? Situations where you feel that you are unable to resolve? Perhaps you’re suffering from stress. Stress greatly affects a person’s perception of life and presents itself negatively. However, stress may also be a great way to challenge one’s limits and provide an opportunity to grow. It all comes down to perception. In this fantastic article, Dr Suzanne Henwood shares her tips on how to handle stress and how an individual can alter their perception about stress to create positive outcomes.
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GREAT HEALTH: How We Perceive Stress Part 1
written by Dr Suzanne Henwood
Did you know it is claimed that 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year. Here is the data from the American Psychological Association.
If you were honest with yourself, are you someone who experiences stress? You may be reluctant to admit it, especially at work, or you may not want to admit it to yourself. But the statistics show that it is more normal to feel stress these days than to not feel stressed.
What is fascinating is the new thinking around stress – backed up by research – that in fact stress is not the real problem. It is our perception of stress which really has a negative impact on us. What if you could completely change your response, in the moment, without having to change anything around you? Kelly McGonigal in her book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at it, talks of stress that is either challenging, or threatening. I prefer the words resourceful or not resourceful – helpful or not helpful.
You have the choice of the two words you use to describe the stress that is either causing you a problem and taking away your peace of mind or alternatively stress which is more positive, offering you the challenge, drive, and resourcefulness. Choose the word that will help you to be the high achiever you are, without having to change where you are.
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Look to your right…
For a moment reflect on how you think about stress. What words do you use and how do you perceive stress? This is what we call ‘above the line’, resourceful thinking. We know that thinking is one of the most powerful activities we can do; it can change our perception on anything and can physically change the body at a cellular and DNA level.
To make a change in our thinking, we first must be aware of what we are thinking. It is claimed that 95% of our day is outside of our conscious awareness, that is why mindfulness is so powerful – it brings things to our attention, into the here and now.
So, let’s do that for a moment right now. Stop whatever you are doing and breathe deeply with a long even breath in and out. Become aware of the movement of air into and out of your body. As you quieten your body down, place your attention up to your head and be aware of what it is you are thinking (in this case about stress). Now think beyond that.
What meaning do you place on what you are thinking about stress? This is the basis of mindfulness and is bringing to your awareness your current thinking around stress. This is the first step to making a change. It is that simple.
In the next article, I will share with you a simple four step process for changing your perception of stress, which can then change your experience of it. The process is all about you rewriting your own script to make stress release its hold on you, moving from your awareness of stress thinking and meaning, to redrafting a new way to think about stress. This will change the meaning you place on stress.