List one: A car is careening toward you. A bear is rampaging your family. An armed burglar has entered your home. Each of these situations are extremely stressful.
List two: A co-worker gives you a rude comment. Your child spills their orange juice in the car. Your spouse comes home late for supper. Each of these situations are also stressful, but in a completely different way.
Can you spot the difference between the first list of stressors and the second list of stressors?
The first list of stressors are life-threatening, while the second list of stressors are not life-threatening in the least.
Over the thousands of years that humans have been around, we have had to survive the life-threatening stressors and our brains and bodies are wired to make the quick reactions necessary to get us to safety and survive. The thing is, nowadays in our culture, we so rarely encounter life-threatening situations, and yet our brains and bodies still react to stressors as if they are life-threatening. Stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are released; our hearts hammer in our chests; our vision narrows; and we over-react. Reactions get the job done quickly and help us survive. They are necessary when the time is right, but spilled juice is not at all life-threatening.
A response is something that requires a bit more reason. It analyzes the situation, determines that it is not life-threatening, and it creates a constructive solution to the problem that is best for all parties involved.
Next time you are feeling stressed, take a breath, determine if it is life-threatening or not and then allow a solution to arise that is best for all parties.
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