10 Things You NEED to Know About Stress

There are about 100 ways to look at stress. 99 of them are wrong. And if you are looking at stress wrong, you're never going to get it right. If you ever want to eliminate stress, pay attention because we've got the 10 things you need to know right here!

10. Stress takes place when things get over-complicated.

If you take something simple and over-complicate it, it becomes stressful. Here’s an example: If you had to make supper for someone special, it doesn’t sound too stressful. But if you decided that you will make fillet mignon, double stuffed potatoes, glazed asparagus, and a chocolate soufflé with freshly picked wild berries for dessert, you might notice a different level of stress there. It’s a simplistic example, but it paints the picture. While you should always try your best, it is important that you come to a place where things are good enough. So keep it simple, don’t over-complicate things, and if you do have some stress in your life, ask yourself how you can simplify it.

9. Stress is not the same thing as a stressor.

A stressor is anything in life that challenges you, pushes your buttons, or triggers you. A stressor can be big or small, a job loss or a long line in the grocery store. Stress on the other hand is a result of your emotions associated with the stressor. Picture a stressor like a mountain in front of you. Stress is when you get worked up at the bottom of the mountain, getting frustrated, overwhelmed, anxious at the mountain. First of all, the mountain doesn’t really care how stressed you get about it. Secondly, your stress never helps to shrink the mountain; it really only ever makes it appear bigger. Thirdly, the mountain is just there for you to climb. So ask yourself where the stressors are in your life and see how your stress is keeping you at the bottom of the mountain.

8. Stress is not an emotion.

Many consider stress to be an emotion or feeling, but they are a little bit mistaken. While stress itself is not an emotion, the root cause of stress is emotional. Stress occurs when draining emotions get out of control. If I asked someone why they were stressed at work, they may reply that they feel angry with their boss, or overwhelmed by tasks. Their stress is there not because of the boss or tasks, but because of their anger and overwhelm. Ask yourself which emotions of yours are leading to your stress.

7. Stressful emotions can become a habit.

The emotions that contribute to stress can become automatic. If for example, you feel anxious most of the time, then a part of your brain called the amygdala sets anxiety as your default. Things can come up in your day, and your brain will fall back into anxiety. Even if things are going well, you’re relaxing on your deck with a glass of iced tea, your brain will bring up some anxiety maybe even without you knowing. The same goes for anger, overwhelm, apathy, or any other emotion. A key to breaking your stress comes in reprogramming your amygdala’s emotional set point from a stressful emotion to a recharging emotion. Ask yourself what stressful emotion is your amygdala set to.

6. The heart has the power.

If you have a beating heart, you have everything you need to decrease stress in your life. Your heart is measurably the strongest force in your body. The emotions that you feel directly impact the beating of your heart. The rhythm of your beating heart is then communicated to the rest of the body and especially the brain. If you tap into the power of the heart, it is strong enough to re-pattern the brain and rewrite your defaults. Ask yourself where you could add a bit more heart in your life to decrease your stress.

5. Stress affects your whole body.

It is common knowledge that stress affects your body, but have you ever wondered how it does that? When you are feeling those stressful emotions, all your body systems don’t work together as smoothly or efficiently. In other words, stress disrupts the harmony and synchronization of all your body systems in what is referred to as incoherence. This includes your brain. When your brain is under the influence of a stressful emotion, a process called cortical inhibition takes place. That’s a fancy way of saying your brain stops working well. This explains why you make poor decisions, say the wrong things, lose your memory, or can’t think clearly. Ask yourself how your stressful emotions are affecting you, your body and brain, and your performance.

4. Relaxation isn’t enough to decrease stress.

To alleviate stress, the common advice is to relax. While relaxation is important, it alone is not enough to decrease stress. Remember from the last point when we said that stressful emotions create incoherence and disharmony in the body? Well to decrease stress, we need something to create coherence again. Research shows that relaxation by itself does not create coherence in the body. Instead we need positive feelings such as appreciation, care, love, and so on to create harmony and coherence in the body to decrease stress. Ask yourself where you can add some positive feelings in your life.

3. It’s the little things that count.

The emotions that contribute to stress are not just the big ones, like grief at the loss of a loved one, self-pity at being laid off, overwhelm at work. Stress is from the sum of all the little things throughout the day. Impatience with a lost shoe, frustration with getting cut off in traffic, annoyance with customer service, irritation with family members and so on. It’s these little insidious stressful emotions that can really add up to overall stress. In the same way, little moments of positive feeling can have plenty of added benefit. You don’t have to wait for a promotion, a vacation, or even a massage to generate some renewing feelings. Appreciating a door held open, enthusiasm for a child’s art, gratitude for the sun on your face are just a few of the tiny things you can add to your day. Ask yourself, what little things are keeping you stressed. And where can you add some little things to decrease your stress.

2. No one can make you feel anything.

I think we have all said something like this, “he makes me angry,” or “this situation makes me uncomfortable,” or “she makes me feel happy.” But none of these things are possible. No one and no thing can reach inside you and make you feel anything. Sure, they can sway or influence you, but you get the final say on what you feel. Something can push your buttons, but they’re your buttons! Something can be challenging but it cannot give you a bad day. For better or for worse, nothing can change the way you feel except for you. It is a lot of responsibility, but in the end it is better that we have control over our own emotions instead of leaving it up to others don’t you think? Ask yourself where you have pretended to give a person or situation control over how you feel and now take responsibility for it again. To change your emotion, you have to be the one responsible for it in the first place.

1. Stress is a choice.

The conclusion to all of this is that your stress is a choice. Though it may not always seem that way, it is true. You cannot always control what circumstances happen around you, you can always control what your emotional response to those situations will be. And as we’ve covered, your emotions either lead to stress or they lead to fulfillment and happiness. The choice is yours. Ask yourself what choice you are going to make.

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