Stress Is What You Think It Is

So Be Careful What You Think…

It’s often said that life is 10% about what happens to you and 90% about what you do with what happens to you. That’s why some people overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve great success.

Reaction vs. Response

Stress responseOur split-second reaction when something happens is based on our history of conditioning and responses in similar situations. We can’t control that reaction in the moment. But in the seconds and minutes that follow we do get to decide how we’ll respond: Follow our conditioning or choose something different. Choosing a different response creates new conditioning that will not only change our present course but also influence future reactions.

Making and following through on a response choice that doesn’t align with our initial reaction takes self-discipline and sometimes courage. But both the natural response and the intentional one have consequences.

Your Mindset Matters – A Lot!

The mindset that says, “I’m a victim of circumstances” condemns us to continue being a victim and living in a distressed state. If our mindset toward challenges is, “Great – I get to try something I’ve never done before”, or “I’m honored to be trusted with this responsibility”, or “This is a great opportunity to make a difference”, then our stress will be of the positive, growth-inducing variety.

On the other hand, if our mindset is, “No way I can do this”, or “Here they go, taking advantage of me again”, or “This is a ridiculous waste of time”, then prepare for some serious negative stress while you’re dealing with the situation.

Living Into Yourself

At the same time, none of us has every skill needed to be successful at everything. Each of us is wired to be energized by certain activities and drained by others[1]. In between the extremes is a whole spectrum of things that energize or drain us to varying degrees. No one gets to do only the energizers and never the drainers. So learn what energizes you (positive stress) and what drains you (negative stress). Find ways to put some energizers in your day when you’re facing a lot of drainers.

How we think about things that are outside of our control is another way our mindset affects our stress management ability. Learn to let go of your need to control and you’ll face less stress in those inevitable situations where you don’t get to call the shots.

Many factors affect our stress level and our ability to manage it. Diet, exercise, sleeping habits, and other personal disciplines for example. But having a healthy mindset towards life and the inevitable stress that it brings is a powerful tool for leveraging healthy stress and minimizing negative stress.

For more on good stress versus bad stress, see

[1] For some useful principles and one framework for understanding energizers and drainers, see Patrick Lencioni’s The 6 Types of Working Genius: A Better Way to Understand Your Gifts, Your Frustrations, and Your Team

  © 2023 enLumen Leadership Services

Leave a Reply