How Well Do You Know Your Stress? (Stress Series 3/4)

When stress strikes and impacts your body and mind, how do you handle it? Learning about your reactions can help you manage it and build resilience in its presence.

Here are 3 leading ways to get to the root of stress:

1. Explore your stress through questioning. Ask yourself:

A. How do I respond under pressure? Maybe you confront, avoid, break down, become irrational.

B. What does stress do to me physically? Beating heart, tightness in your chest or shoulders, sweating, knots in your stomach, or headaches.

C. How does it affect me emotionally? Do I get sad, angry, worried, or have a pervasive out-of-control feeling?

D. What are my go-to distresses? Are they positive: Laughing, meditating, practicing yoga, reading, socializing, or negative: excessive eating, drinking, procrastinating, watching tv, overworking, being rude to others?

E. Do I have a different reaction or destresser for a different trigger or context? Perhaps when it is dealing with family, you engage in emotional eating, but when dealing with a work event, you get angry and condescending.

It is ok to not have all the answers, but embarking on a journey of self-discovery can be the most important expedition you go on. You can start by prioritizing your self-reflection by journaling daily, thinking regularly on these questions especially during mundane activities like brushing your teeth, or by reading about how other people handle the causes and effects of stress so you can provide a comprehensive solution.

2. Know your values. Stress can occur when one of our values is being violated so knowing your values can help with an adequate response. For example, you may be anxious about giving feedback to your team member. Upon further scrutiny of the situation, you realize that the value that is being tested is your concern with fairness, so you want to make sure you are doing right by your teammate. You ask yourself, “by prolonging the conversation, am I being fair?” You may realize that when you frame the situation through the fairness value you are much quicker to provide feedback so she can improve and help the team. Or perhaps, you criticize yourself harshly and are stressed because it is violating your value of self-compassion. When you can identify the principles that are being tested, you know how to put strategies in place that allow you to use your emotions wisely under stress.

3. Increase your response range. When we are stressed, our brain is wired to be more reactionary and our decision-making faculties are impaired. We can resort to binary choice-making which limits the options available to us. In tough decisions, we can reach premature conclusions rather than opening ourselves up to more and better options. A good way to combat this problem is to force yourself to generate several responses, even when you think you only have a few, challenge yourself to have at least 10 and then you can winnow down to a realistic and empowering three. Knowing that you have more options will reduce your stress.

When confronted with a stressful situation, carefully appraise your core strengths and resources rather than panicking or disconnecting from reality. Identify the source of the stress, think about the values that are being tested, and increase your range of responses so you can defeat anything that comes your way.

Quote of the day: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” — Mark Twain

Q: Which value, when violated, causes you the most stress? What’s your best distressing technique? Comment and share with us, we would love to hear!

[The next blog in this series 4/4 will focus on dealing with stress in the workplace]

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What do you know about your stress?

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