Stress and Perception: Can stress be lowered through our perception of reality?

 

What do you see here?  What are your lenses?  How are you perceiving your reality?

 

Stress-A little is beneficial, too much can be wreaking havoc for our health

Stress, we can all relate, at one time or another, to being stressed-out and the experienced effects of too much stress: mood changes, exhaustion, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite and diet etc.  Maybe you’ve caught yourself thinking or saying:

“I’m stressed-out”

“I’m at the end of my rope”

“I’m feeling overwhelmed”

“I’m depleted and exhausted”

Stress-a little bit, keeps us sharp, productive, and stimulated, where as too much leaves us stressed out, overwhelmed and burnt out, with negative effects on our health and wellbeing.  Our bodies react to all kinds of different forms of stress including psychological stress, emotional stress, physical stress (pushing our bodies too far), and environmental stress (chemical burden etc.)  When our bodies are pushed too far past the point of balance, all systems are affected, and health effects ensue.  Excessive stress and it’s effects on your health has been well documented in the literature.  Stressful events have been linked to cardiovascular disease, depression, delayed wound healing, immune system dysfunction, and numerous other health effects including mortality.1

Perception

But what about perception?  Where does this fit in?

William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 2

Are events really as they are, or are they more accurately, as they are to you based on how you perceive them?

How would you respond to getting sprayed by an ongoing car on your way to work?  Immediate anger, taking it as, look what just happened, this is so stressful…or, okay, haha that just happened.  What now?

Imagine if you could reduce your stress load by not tagging perceptions in your reality as stressors?  I’m not suggesting tricking yourself, but quite the contrary, by fully accepting the present moment and what’s taking place, and by not framing the moment with “thinking” or with the mind.  Accepting the present moment for what it is, and not the interpretation of it.

A 2014 research article that investigated older Taiwanese adults found that, apart from health-related exposure to stressors, exposure to stressors increased, but perceived stress decreased, over time, in this group of older adults.1  It was also cited that an increase in poor health over time was related to an increase in perceived stress in all domains.1

This study provided evidence to show that stress exposure and perceived stress are not associated in later life, with the exception of health-related stress exposure.

Meaning, what if we didn’t label experiences as stressors and observed what happened.  As truly, was it a stressor, or did you simply interpret it as such?

References

  1. Vasunilashorn S, Lynch SM, Glei DA, Weinstein M, Goldman N. Exposure to Stressors and Trajectories of Perceived Stress Among Older Adults. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 2014Jun;70(2):329–37.
  2. A quote from Hamlet [Internet]. Goodreads. [cited 2017Feb27]. Available from: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/21959-there-is-nothing-either-good-or-bad-but-thinking-makes

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