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What Is Your Stress Quotient?
By Irene Becker
What is your Stress Quotient? and, why is your Stress Quotient important to your health, wealth and welfare? Here are the facts:
In an era when our access to knowledge, information, and technology is unsurpassed in human history, in a society where when one of the fastest growing businesses is self storage because the stuff that we own no longer fits into our homes, at a time when U.S. productivity statistics are the highest ever…
The World Health Organization forecasts that stress will be the major cause of disability by the year 2020. Meanwhile, U.S. corporations spend in excess of $10 billion a year on 'executive' stress-related emotional and physical ailments, addictions, absenteeism, overwork, burn outs and brown outs; and over $300 billion is spent on 'general workplace stress.' The divorce rate in USA is 70%, in Canada and Europe it hovers around 50%. Many of us are living and working faster than ever before, few of us are living better.
The problem with living and working in the 21st century is that more often than not our environment, our circumstances, our conversations, the sheer pace of life/work - and even the negativity, chaos and discord that we ingest on a daily basis through our media, newspapers, entertainment and music - kick off a 'fight-or-flight' reaction that is totally out of context. Even though we are not in immediate physical danger, our brain automatically kicks into its fight-or-flight response.
The fight-or-flight response is a natural bodily response that enables human beings and all mammals to be alerted to and quickly flee a truly life-threatening situation. What makes out of context fight-or-flight reactions so hard to cope with is that this intense reaction often occurs in the absence of any immediate or apparent danger to our physical well being. Often we will REACT to a situation or be stuck in STASIS, unable to respond because we are going through a bodily response that makes us FIGHT or RUN AWAY as quickly as we can.
More often than not, the stress/anxiety we are feeling is nothing else than our fight-or-flight response automatically kicking into action. Recognize that any time we are emotionally triggered, anytime something reminds of something painful that occurred in our life, or makes us feel fearful, our natural survival mechanism will kick in. And, the stress and anxiety we feel is nothing more than the well known fight-or-flight response occurring out of context. The out of context fight-or-flight cycle looks like this:
- A conversation, words, a place anything that takes us back to a painful memory or experience from the past. Anything that makes us feel invalidated and fearful.
- Negative thoughts.
- More negative thoughts that can lead to catastrophizing, self doubt, feeling threatened.
- Intensified body symptoms that are stressful, and can lead to a panic or anxiety attack; or alternatively cause us to be immobilized by stress, or to be reactive and boil over with rage.
- Hyperventilation may, in some cases, be added to the loop. Rapid, shallow breathing can produce hyperventilation symptoms such as tingling in the hands and feet, dizziness, disorientation, and feelings of un-reality.
Can we circumvent the out of context fight-or-flight response, so that we do not have to feel stressed, deal with anxiety? No, the fight-or-flight response is automatic; however there are steps that we can take to minimize stress, avoid stress growing and turning into anxiety and panic.
- Recognize that you are having an out of context fight-or-flight response, and do not try to resist or fear it. What we fear follows us. Let go of fear, because it will not help you. Let go of fear and resistance to what you are experiencing because trying to resist what is happening will only make it worse; and, dumbing or numbing down your feelings will only make them grow and fester and come out ugly at another time.
- Develop what I call constructive discontent. Your ability to become the participant observer. Your ability to pause, and start looking at yourself and the situation at hand as if you are the director of the movie that is your life. Do not resist the unpleasant feelings, do not try to fight the stress or anxiety, simply watch it, feel it; and, try to refocus on what your goal, your objective is in the situation at hand. Take back your power to recognize your out of context fight-or-flight response for what it is, watch it, observe it, let it pass.
- Build techniques that allow you to grow your strength as a participant observer. Techniques that will help you live in the present moment, be more aware and conscious of not only what you are feeling, but the fact that you can learn not to be held hostage by your feelings.
- If you are plagued by stress, anxiety, panic attacks that you are hiding in silence, be proactive, make an investment in your most important asset and find professional help so that you can reduce your stress quotient.