The past many months have provided us with a variety of stressful situations. We’ve dealt with quarantine, loss of jobs, illness, riots, political upheaval, isolation, children’s school disruption and more. All of these represented stressors. Yet our individual perceptions classified some of these situations as a challenge to overcome, and others as insurmountable. As we pursue wellness on a daily basis, I want to encourage you to take inventory of your tool box so you know what’s available to help.
The human body processes challenge stress differently from threat stress. Challenge stress can actually be a positive in our lives as it motivates us to press onward. But threat stress – the feeling that we are outmatched – shifts our physiology into fight or flight mode. That sets us up for hormone imbalance, poor digestion and suppressed immune function.
If you recognize that you are experiencing threat stress, can you transform it into challenge stress? Yes, you can.
Shift Your Focus
Rather than staying focused on the stressor – that situation that makes you feel like you are caught in a trap – look inward. Remind yourself of the resources you possess. We all have skills, knowledge and experience that we tend to take for granted. Remind yourself what your specific assets are:
- Are you a quick thinker, adaptable?
- Do you tend to be upbeat and positive?
- Are you empathetic or insightful?
Write out a list of all the ways you are already prepared to navigate the situation. Note past situations when you overcome similar challenges. And if you identify areas where you don’t have what you need, who can you ask for help? We often don’t know how to ask for support until we know what we need. And providing support for you may actually be the lift that someone else needs in their situation.
Don’t Avoid the Stress
Avoidance makes things bigger in our imagination. Stress is a part of our life. We can’t completely eliminate it, but we can modulate our perception of the stress. Take inventory of your tool box, and armed with those tools, visualize yourself confronting the situation and coming out on the other side. As you choose to walk toward a problem, you may discover it was not the tiger you imagined but simply a shadow on the wall.
When you recognize stress, take a moment to breathe deeply and be grateful for the opportunity to learn. Focus your efforts on gaining something of value from the experience. Pick up your tools, tell yourself “I got this” and vanquish the tiger.
I’m not suggesting that traumatic events won’t have an impact on you. But I do believe we have more control over how everyday events affect our cellular biology and thus our health, current and future.
You have more power than you realize, and taking inventory of your tools can help you put it to use as you pursue wellness!