• Anyssa Grendel, BS, LMSW

Changing our relationship with stress

I often share with clients if stress were a person and walked in the room we would probably give stress dirty looks. When you think about your stressors, what comes to mind? Maybe it's your to do list of laundry, errands, appointments, etc or maybe finances, children, school, work etc. Whatever it is I can imagine when you think about your stress you don't think happy positive thoughts about it. You think negatively, helpless, overwhelmed, anxious and maybe you even repeatedly think about these stressful things and don't necessarily get much done do you. So what's the common thread here... Thoughts!

Here is the thing, most of our stress is related to our thoughts about stress. Our thoughts are super powerful, they are the driving force behind our emotions and our behaviors. The truth is stress isn't necessarily "bad". Yes, of course lots of stress is bad over time on our health but that's because we believe stress is bad. We think about the stress we endure in a negative, unhealthy mindset. We self doubt our abilities to manage our stress, we limit ourselves and doubt our problem solving skills.

When we think stress is bad, it has negative effects on our body impacting our overall health. But what if we thought about stress as something else. What if we noticed the effects of the stress response as something normal, helpful, preparatory. Well that is exactly what researchers looked at. We find that if we think stress is bad our blood vessels constrict and we all know that fight or flight state isn't good for our health. But researchers also found that if we think the stress response is not bad but on the other hand preparing me for a challenge to rise up to it and overcome it well then the blood vessels stay relaxed. They mimic what it looks like in times of joy and courage.

So in a sense our thoughts are actually the stress we experience. So if we change our thoughts about something it changes our physiological reaction in our body. It changes the way we feel and behave. It has healthier impacts overall. The power is in our thoughts!

Here is a Ted talk explaining the research more.

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