Stress is defined as your body’s response to any demand on you. As such, your level of stress is based on two important perceptions:
1) Your perception of demands– stress results from the perception that demands on you is significant, high, dangerous, difficult or painful.
2) Your perception of your ability to cope with demands – stress results from the perception that your ability (or resources) to cope with demands is insufficient.
If you do not perceive the demand as high or higher than your ability to cope, you will not experience stress. In this way, stress demonstrates the mind-body connection, the connection between your perceptions, i.e. what happens in your mind, and your responses, i.e. what happens in your body. Stress starts in your mind and manifests in your body based on what you perceive!
The key to balancing stress then is to 1) view demands realistically (no more dangerous difficult or painful than they really are) and 2) get creative about planning to meet these demands so that you feel able to cope.
Of course, you can’t view demands realistically or get creative without a healthy mind.
But what is a healthy mind ultimately dependent upon? A healthy mind (with its healthy perceptions and creativity) is dependent on a healthy body. In other words, your ability to think and reason is a reflection of the overall health of your brain, i.e. how healthy your body is.
Oh, no! That seems like a vicious cycle! And It can be! The state of your body will affect the state of your mind and vice versa. How do you stop the cycle? You become acutely aware of both. April is National Stress Awareness Month. You should be aware of how stress manifests in your mind AND your body. This is also a two step process:
STEP 1: Become aware of what causes stress for you (stressors) and how stress show itself in your body (symptoms).
STEP 2: Once you know that, you can explore ways of 1) changing your perception of and how you deal with the what (stressors) and 2) recovering your body from the how.
This is what understanding and balancing stress is all about.