Stress Is Not What You Think
- Ed and Deb Shapiro
Ironically, the holiday season can be the most stressful time of the year. Imagine you are trying to squeeze some toothpaste out of a tube but you have forgotten to take the top off. What happens? Deb actually did this in one of her most unaware moments and the toothpaste soon found another way out through the bottom of the tube and got all over her. It will force a hole in the side or wherever is the weakest point.
Now imagine that the tube of toothpaste is you, under pressure and beginning to experience psychological or emotional stress. But you don’t take your lid off, as it were, by recognizing what is happening and making time to relax or deal with your inner conflicts.
So what happens to the mental or emotional stress building up inside? In her book, Your Body Speaks Your Mind, Deb shows how eventually it has to find a way out and if it can’t come out through the top, as it were, by being expressed and resolved, it will come out somewhere else, whether through your digestion, nerves, immune system, behavior, or sleep patterns. Repressed or ignored stress can manifest as depression, addiction, or anxiety; projected outwards it can become hostility, aggression, prejudice or fear.
We have built into our physiology a fight-or-flight response that enables us to respond to danger if, for instance, we are on the front line of a battle or facing a large bear. The battle may be with your teenage son and bears tend to come in a variety shapes and sizes, such as impatient and angry holiday shoppers. Seemingly unimportant events can even cause a stress reaction, as the brain is unable to tell the difference between real and imagined threats: if you focus on your concern about what might happen it plays as much havoc with your hormones and chemical balance as it does in a real situation.
Recent studies show–as if we didn’t know–that job dissatisfaction, moving house, divorce, and financial difficulties are at the top of the list of known stressors. But we all respond differently to circumstances: a divorce may be a big stressor for one but it may be a welcome relief to another. The difference lies in our response, for although we may have little or no control over the circumstances we are dealing with, we do have control over our reaction to them.
In other words, the cause of stress is not as much the external circumstances, such as having too many demands and not enough time to fill them, as it is our perception of the circumstances as being overwhelming; and our perception of our ability to cope, as when you feel stretched beyond what you perceive yourself to be capable of.
What you believe will color your every thought, word and action. As cell biologist Bruce Lipton says in his book, The Biology of Belief, “Our responses to environmental stimuli are indeed controlled by perceptions, but not all of our learned perceptions are accurate. Not all snakes are dangerous! Yes, perception “controls” biology, but… these perceptions can be true or false. Therefore, we would be more accurate to refer to these controlling perceptions as beliefs. Beliefs control biology!”
In other words, believing that it is your work, family or lifestyle that is causing you stress and that if you could only change these in some way then you would be fine, is seeing the situation from the wrong perspective. It is the belief that it is something out there that is causing the stress. And, although changing the circumstances certainly may help, invariably, no matter what you do, it is a change within your belief system and perception of yourself that will make the biggest difference.
Try It Yourself
If you find yourself feeling stressed, take 10 minutes to breathe more deeply. Most people who are tense breathe short, shallow breaths into the upper part of their chest. If you take slower breaths and deepen your breathing into your belly, the stress will dissolve.
Then find an affirmation that works for you to shift perceptions and belief patterns and to reinforce your strengths, such as: “My mind is at ease and I am capable of doing everything,” or “With every breath I am more relaxed and flowing through my day with ease.”