Redefining the Sources of Stress: Stressors and their meaning
Posted Jun 10 2011 5:51pm
Columbus had a time of it trying to convince the queen of Spain that the earth wasn't flat and that there was an unknown world out there to discover with potential riches beyond their wildest imagination. Of course he was right and the rest is history. Yet still today in our modern world we have fashioned a "flatness" point of view regarding the source of our stress. I know of one such "Columbus" in the field of stress that had made an incredible disruptive contribution to the understanding of the source of stress.
His name is Hans Selye. Selye, a Canadian endrincronologist, worked in the early 1900's and this post is based upon his work in the identification of "stressors" and our reactions to them. Although his work was mostly biological, he made strong implications that his theories had cognitive implications as well. He defined "stressors" as any events, people, interactions, food, and chemicals that have a creates an affect to the body. Of course this is common knowledge today, however in 1908 this was quite startling.
Selye's definition of stress holds the key, still to this day, to the most remarkable new approach to stress relief. He defined stress as "the mind and body's reaction or adaption to a stressor." His understanding of the body and mind's reaction or adaption to stressors led to the discovery of the " fight or flight response." So in "fight or flight" response terminology there is a "real" threat or a "perceived" threat. Getting robbed or physically attacked is an example of a real threat. Having an anxious reaction to finding yourself in an elevator with a innocent stranger is a perceived threat.
At the foundation of a perceived threat is an interpretation. The interpretation of any stressor is what the mind reacts to and following nanoseconds later is the body's reaction. The idea that our reaction to our own interpretations of stressors causes stress is tantamount to saying that we stress ourselves. This may not be true all the time, but is most of the time. No one wants to admit that and therefore this approach to stress relief meets with a great deal of resistance. Why is that? Why do we all have such a great investment in our mutual agreement that what stresses us the most is someone, something, some event, outside of us; releasing us of any responsibility? What is the worst possible scenario of taking ownership of our choices? We see this happening everyday with the people around us yet refuse to see that we are doing the very same thing. We cling to our interpretation and fight desperately to defend them.
If we can change our interpretation of our stressors we can alter their effects in our mind and on our body. This approach is powerful and sustainable. Nevertheless this point of view will not change the circumstances in your life but you will absolutely change your mind about them. A problem now becomes a challenge, that empowers you rather than engulf you in stress, fatigue, and worry.
Ed Fox - www.sustainable-stress-relief.com - 310-259-8774