Four steps to change your per­cep­tion of stress

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - dr suzanne hen­wood

In­the July edi­tion of Great Health GuideTM, I dis­cussed ‘How We Per­ceive Stress’ Part 1 and I in­vited you to be­come aware of your cur­rent think­ing about stress – what it means to you and what you tell your­self about it.

This ar­ti­cle of­fers a four-step process to chang­ing your in­ter­nal mean­ing around stress. So, let’s ex­plore that in a bit more depth.

Close your eyes, think of what­ever it is you are call­ing stress/stress­ful.

As you bring that to mind, do you have a word, story, pic­ture or feel­ing that helps you to know that you are stressed? Just spend five min­utes get­ting as much de­tail as you can around that feel­ing.

• What words come to mind? Write them down – all of them.

• What story are you telling your­self? Is it about un­fair­ness, in­jus­tice, lack of con­trol – write the story down as if you were ex­plain­ing it to some­one else start­ing with, “It is like…”

• What pic­ture, metaphor or anal­ogy de­scribes ‘stress’ to you most ef­fec­tively? Write it down – or draw it, in such a way that some­one else can un­der­stand it and feel it too.

• What do you feel in your body and where do you feel it? Write it down.

Now take a mo­ment to de­cide whether that ‘stress’ is a use­ful re­source to you in any way.

Are you ready to let it go, recog­nis­ing the dis-stress it is caus­ing in your mind, heart and body?

1. If you are ready to let it go - and only if you are ready (it is a choice) – go through your list and change each one. On a new sheet of pa­per record the fol­low­ing:

• What words would be more re­source­ful? Keep it true, so you can be­lieve it. This is not about triv­i­al­is­ing your ex­pe­ri­ence or ex­cus­ing poor be­hav­iours, it is about re­fram­ing your ex­pe­ri­ence, so it can be ben­e­fi­cial for you.

• For ev­ery word that you have writ­ten down – of­fer an al­ter­na­tive way of look­ing at it and de­scrib­ing it.

o Anger - may be­come de­ter­mi­na­tion to do some­thing about it.

o Stuck - may be­come tak­ing time to make a very clear de­ci­sion.

o Pres­sure - may be­come the driver needed to act.

• Stay with it un­til you have an al­ter­na­tive for ev­ery word and imag­ine, eras­ing the old words in your mind and writ­ing the new words or phrases where they used to be.

2. Now look at the story. You may find with chang­ing the words that the story has al­ready changed. Us­ing the new words, how does the story pan out? Re­write the story us­ing the new plot, putting you back in charge.

3. How has the pic­ture/metaphor changed now? Do what­ever you know will work for you to make it a pos­i­tive, re­source­ful im­age. Will you be em­pow­ered, suc­cess­ful, joy­ful? You can choose the words and emo­tions you most want to feel.

4. No­tice how the feel­ings have changed. Take a mo­ment to no­tice your feel­ings and how they have changed be­cause of the new words, a new story and a new pic­ture. Make a men­tal note of how you can do this in the fu­ture with other sit­u­a­tions. You can be the au­thor of your own em­pow­er­ing in the mo­ment and you now know where to find that new feel­ing again, in­stan­ta­neously.

This tech­nique is pow­er­ful: it should not be used to tol­er­ate poor sit­u­a­tions or to put you at any risk.

It can em­power you to make pos­i­tive changes to en­sure that you are in con­trol of your own re­sponse, to what­ever sit­u­a­tions arise. It is clear from the lit­er­a­ture that stress is be­com­ing a nor­mal part of everyday life. Life is fast pace, un­cer­tain, un­pre­dictable and of­ten like a roller coaster ride.

We can­not change all of the world around us or how some peo­ple choose to act in the world. How­ever, we can take ab­so­lute con­trol of how we re­act and re­spond. Use this fourstep process to put your­self back in charge. By chang­ing your per­cep­tion of the stress in the mo­ment (and when re­flect­ing on dif­fi­cult events) – you can make wiser de­ci­sions on what needs to hap­pen.


• Do you act or walk away?

• Do you voice con­cerns or breathe qui­etly?

• Do you seek sup­port and ad­vice?

• Do you sup­port oth­ers?

We al­ways have a choice: This tech­nique will help you cre­ate the space to see the choices avail­able and make a wise re­sponse – just by chang­ing your per­cep­tion of the stress. By chang­ing how we view stress, we can mas­sively re­duce its’ op­por­tu­nity to have a neg­a­tive im­pact on our phys­i­cal and men­tal well­be­ing. That too is a choice.

Dr Suzanne Hen­wood is the Di­rec­tor and Lead Coach and Trainer of mBrain­ing4Suc­cess. She is also the CEO of The Healthy Work­place and a Mas­ter Trainer and Mas­ter Coach of mBIT (Mul­ti­ple Brain In­te­gra­tion Tech­niques) and can be con­tacted via her web­site.

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