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What helped me get better with stress?



While doing research for the Stress reduction program I want to create, I discovered what my main problem with stress was: My mindset about it and the response I had.


Let me explain.

Most of us have some kind of automatic response that we develop in time when we encounter stressful situations.

The usual response we have is one of these two:

1. Ineffective responding.

2. Effective responding


 

The first response (that I realized I have), was a complaining response. I was just wishing that things were different and easier for me; I would complain about the situation to my friends or family. The „Why is this happening to me? “ question would haunt me.

Sometimes It was a blaming response, I would say that it was probably my fault that things were happening like that. Some other times I would feel resistance; I do not deserve this after the effort I had put in.


 

The second one, effective responding is associated mostly with feelings that stress can be an enhancing experience. Being stressed is a challenge and a possibility to improve our performance at work, strengthen social connections, or improve our well-being and vitality.

If we can practice this type of response, we might experience feelings of being at peace and acceptance of the situation that creates stress in our lives. We can be curious about why this is happening and try to solve it.


 

Depending on the natural response we have when it comes to stressful events, we feel differently.

With ineffective responses, we are full of blame, criticism, and complaining so we experience feelings of guilt, low self-worth, and even anger and frustration.

By adopting the second type of responding, we can have the opportunity to feel calm while facing stress, curiosity about what is the learning experience for us, and enhanced creativity in finding solutions.


By practicing an effective response, we can look for what is it to discover about ourselves, and about others, and we can understand that most stressful situations can be, in time, turned around in our favor. A divorce can make space for a new, better relationship. Losing a job can make you realize you were ignoring your health and your family. Health problems can be turned into „ I take better care of myself now“. Losing someone dear can bring us closer to other family members, and friends.


 

It was Kelly McGonigal's book „The Upside of Stress “that made me reflect on my mindset about stress.

Since my mindset was that stress is bad and I’d do anything to avoid it, no wonder that every day waking up with those thoughts and attitudes would be difficult for me.

I would still work to find solutions, but from a resistance base, not from a challenge one. And that makes a difference.


 

In my praxis people who view stress as harmful and as something to be avoided do different kinds of things: they use „escapism“(through video games, alcohol, and compulsive shopping) to avoid negative feelings, they avoid tough conversations, and withdraw their energy and attention from whatever relationship, role or goal would cause the stress. They dismiss their feelings instead of taking steps to address the stress source.


To follow McGonigal’s advice, from now on I will start to be more mindful of my stress response: I will notice how I think and talk about stress. By doing this, I give myself the chance to avoid answering automatically with resistance.

Instead, I will focus on looking for the challenge in that situation, tap into my creativity to find solutions, talk to people not to complain, but to ask for advice, look for similar past experiences, and apply my learnings.

I strongly believe that the way we think about something can transform its effects on us. A positive mindset can shape our reality and future. The effect you expect is the effect you get.


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