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Exploring the Positive Face of Stress

Stress is an individual reaction. A single event, for example speaking to a large audience can give a positive stress to one person, and a negative stress to another. Stress can be fantastic. Or it can be fatal. It's all up to you. As well as respecting the dangers of stress, you can learn to harness its benefits.

On this Page:

The Positive Face of Stress  The Flight or Fight Response

Recognise the Stress Symptoms What are Stressors   Managing Stress

The Relaxation Page

Olympic records are not set on the quiet training tracks, but only with the stress of competition, in front of huge crowds. The most efficient work done by the student is often during the stress of facing a deadline for a term paper, or exam. The most electric performances don't come out of actors during rehearsals, they occur when the curtain rises before a live audience. Serious poker players would play only if significant amounts of money are bet on each hand. With only pennies or toothpicks at stake, the stress of losing is gone, but so too is the intense concentration, the enjoyment of bluffing, and the excitement of winning. Many people with sedate working lives actively seek stress in the form of parachuting, cliff climbing, downhill skiing, horror movies or simply riding a roller coaster. Such stresses bring more joy into their lives.


Too much stress however, can become a negative force. Let us consider some examples. With the additional worry of an assassination attempt, the Olympic high jumper might not even get off the ground. After a dramatic break up with his girlfriend, the outstanding student could very well fail his exams due to an inability to concentrate. After three weeks of being nit picked, humiliated, and shrieked at by a lunatic director, even the best actor might have trouble avoiding a substandard performance.

Too little stress can be just as disastrous. The sudden silence gained by retiring from a demanding job into a life of idleness usually causes death or senility within two years, unless new stresses and interests can be found. Some retirees find, to their chagrin, that little tasks they used to do well during a busy working day now take all week to complete. What is more, they often end up being done poorly.

As you can see from the graph, increasing stress serves to increase efficiency towards its maximum. Up to this point, it is correct use the old adage, "if you want something done, ask a busy person".

However, past the critical line, your efficiency rapidly falls, even to below zero. This means that, with too much stress, you can actually become counter-productive, worse than useless. If you are close to this critical line, then even the addition of a minor task to your hectic schedule (for example trying first thing Monday morning to find where your dog buried your car keys), could be enough to push you past your peak.

When you are in that state, even things you normally do well will be beyond your grasp. The graph applies to everyone, but the amounts and kinds of stress needed to reach maximum efficiency are different in each individual. The graph is also dynamic; it changes with every change in your life. Thus you should refer to it frequently. If you are in the area of too little stress, you should say yes to extra duties at home, or at work, or in your recreation. You could say yes to a more expensive house, if you need one, assuming that this is a good investment. Such extra responsibilities will add needed stress, and improve your overall efficiency and happiness dramatically.

If you are in the area of too much stress, part of the solution will be learning how to say no. On this course I will give you additional tips on harnessing your own potential and skills to shore up your defences. These include: trimming inessential activities such as volunteer work, serving on committees, and even perhaps maintenance jobs around the house; learning to delegate where possible. If your lifestyle is bankrupting you, come down a peg. Consider moving to a smaller place, selling the frills, and simplifying your life.


To know the joy of stress, know thyself. Seek skills that suit your aptitudes during your learning years; and seek activities that use your skills for the rest of your life. Assess your stresses, and then make the right choices to become resistant to them. Strive to maximise success by investing your energy and time in all four quadrants of your life: financial sufficiency, personal happiness, sound health, and respect on the job. Once you have mastered these life management skills, you will come to know the positive aspects of stress. As an added bonus, you extend your good years longer than you thought possible and your financial

successes to new heights. That's all there is to it. You don't need to buy expensive food supplements or throw your money into complicated health schemes. However... it doesn't always come easily for many people, making strong choices instead of weak ones will take tremendous courage, at least initially. But after you become used to the strong choices, the weaker ones will become less and less attractive.

Life does not have to be dull to avoid being over-stressed. What I am advocating to you is to get everything you can out of life, for as long as you can. Be spontaneous. Be funny. Eat normal foods. Enjoy a drink of beer or wine if you wish. Run or ride with the wind in your hair. Be proud of your body and enjoy each stride with your children and their children. Continue to learn. Take time to use all your senses to soak up the beauties of colour, texture, sound and smell. Conduct your affairs with integrity. Earn the respect of your peers, the loyalty of your friends, and the love of your children and spouse. Push back the boundaries of senility, and extend your productive prime years as far as you can. This is the positive face of stress.

You already know some of the points that will be raised in stress counselling. Many others are known by your doctor's, and may already have been explained to you. However, there is much to learn that will be new in terms of facts as well as perspectives.

To begin at the beginning, during stress counselling we will review your basic anatomy. Under stress, certain physiological changes take place. Unless you understand these, they could be to your detriment.

Second, you must identify and measure the stresses that are facing you. Many of them are well hidden. Unless recognised, they cannot be conquered.

Third, you will learn how to rate your own resistance to your stresses. Find out if you are "bullet-proof", or a "sitting duck". If you are the latter you will see how to make 10 simple choices to maximise your resistance to the effects of stress.

Next comes a brief consideration of the subject good nutrition. And the approach that I recommend is one that can be followed for a lifetime, without hardship, and without having to say goodbye to your favourite foods forever. Moving on through the course of counselling, we will review the subject of self- induced stress (Type A behaviour). New insights into conquering it will be presented.

I will pose and help you find the answer to the question, “Are you the architect of your own destiny?” This topic will include life scripts and driven behaviour and the relationship to stress.

Are you a success? If not, you will probably shorten your financial horizons and your productive life span. With the help of counselling, measure your success in the quadrants of finances, personal life, health, and job. Find out how you rate. I offer three principals to cope with your stresses and pamper yourself at the same time.

Learn how to alleviate and control stress, using techniques at the cutting edge of therapy. These include accelerated learning processes (EMDR, TFT & EFT) in combination with the use of medical acupressure points.

See how others fail to solve problems by blaming the uncontrollable. See if you can do better, by concentrating on the control of the truths behind the excuses.

Finally, it is my hope that stress counselling will entertain, teach, and motivate you to achieve a long lifetime of prosperity and good health.

Responses to Stress.

The "Fight Or Flight" Response

Have you heard of the "fight - or - flight response? This is the body's instinctual reaction to stress. Muscles tense and breathing becomes shallow as the body prepares for action. Adrenaline and other chemicals are also pumped into the bloodstream to increase strength and endurance. In the past, this response was one of humanity's most important survival mechanisms. It enabled us to confront life-threatening situations when we had no other choice, or to escape from them when we did.

In today's more constrained world, however, the "fight - or - flight" response often works against us. The extra, strength-giving sugars and fatty substances which are released into the blood can increase your cholesterol if not controlled. This in turn may lead to clogging and thickening of the arteries, or other circulatory disorders. As well, excess secretions of adrenaline strain the heart. And since fighting and running are rarely solutions to today's problems, we bottle up our anxiety and frustration and leave ourselves open to stress-related disorders such as ulcers, muscular pain, skin problems and even hair loss.

Recognise Your Stress Symptoms

When you are under too much stress, your body lets you know by sending out warning signs. These can be physical, emotional or behavioural.

Physical symptoms take the form of headaches, high blood pressure, chest pain, fatigue or eyestrain. Some emotional signs are depression, irritability, low self-esteem, anger and apathy. Behavioural indicators may be overeating or under eating, an increase in smoking or drinking, forgetfulness, insomnia and careless driving..

Of course these are not the only signs. There are many more. But if you have found yourself experiencing some of the previously-named symptoms with increasing frequency, you are probably becoming stressed.


What Are Stressors?

Things that bring on stress are known as "stressors". They are many and varied. Financial pressures, living in crowded conditions, criticism from a superior, problems with personal relationships, a death in the family -- all of these are stressors.

Are any of them yours? Or do you find stressful thoughts running through your mind when you're not busy, when you're alone, or just before you go to bed? It is important that you identify and try to understand. your stressors. Counselling can help you deal with stressors. Things that make one angry or upset are the stressors most people think of first. But things that make you sad, frightened, surprised, excited or happy can also cause stress. You may even cause your own stress through thoughts, feelings and expectations.

Managing Stress - An A-B-C

The following suggestions are all steps you can take immediately to reduce your levels of stress. Persistent problems and symptoms of stress may resolved by a course of stress management counselling.

A is for ACTION. When stress is created by something you can control, take ACTION to change things. Many people cite too much to do, with too little time to do it, as their greatest cause of stress. Here are five time-management topics that can help:

  1. Make lists. It's easier to do a job when you remind yourself about it by writing it down.
  2. Prioritise. Do important jobs first, when your energy is high.
  3. Combine similar tasks. Make all phone calls in one sitting. Run all errands in one trip.
  4. Avoid time-wasters. Postpone chit-chat until you have "downtime."
  5. Delegate. Can't co-workers, children, spouse or friends take some of the load?

B is for BEAR IT. If there's nothing you can do at that precise time, you'll just have to "grin and BEAR IT."

Learn to master your thoughts and impulses even if, at first, you can't control your feelings. When anger threatens, count to 10, or 20. Recite the multiplication tables. Memorize a poem. Change your thoughts and then later, when you've calmed down, analyze the problem objectively. Don't allow yourself to be drawn into reacting emotionally.

Keep things in perspective. Don't overdramatise. Sometimes the words we use to describe our stressful situations are emotionally charged and can worsen the way we feel. Saying that one's workload is "killing" them or that one's children are driving one to "pull their hair out" are examples of how we often over dramatise.

Self-talk is a technique many people use to handle stress. They repeat a saying that helps them accept and deal with stressful situations. Here are some common ones:

"One day I'll laugh about this. It's a learning experience."

"This is just one more chapter for my book."

Don't forget, a sense of humor and a positive attitude are guaranteed stress reducers. If you avoid taking things overly seriously, and can focus on the positive side, you're already on the road to finding a solution to your situation.

C is for COPE. And one of the best ways to COPE with stress is by using relaxation techniques.  Go to the Relaxation Page for more ideas.

Of course your body has a natural ability to relax, but often this ability diminishes with constant stress. For this reason, it may take practice before your body regains its natural ability.

Breathing deeply is the fastest and easiest way to relax. Here's one method: Fold your hands together over your stomach. Now inhale and fill up the bottom of your lungs breathing from your abdomen, not your chest. Inhale to the count of four, then exhale slowly and focus on relaxing. Freeing up tension in muscle groups is another stress-reducer, and it can be combined with deep breathing as well. First, scan your body looking for tense muscle groups. Start with your feet and work up through your legs until you reach your neck and head. At each place you feel tension, take a full breath and imagine the tightness "dissolving" as you exhale.

Auto suggestion is a third key to relaxation. Allow random thoughts to pass through your mind without paying any attention to them. Then, begin to repeat things like the following to yourself:

"I feel relaxed and calm."  "My hands are warm and heavy."  "My heartbeat is slow and regular."

Stress - You Can Manage It!  

We all must live with stress. If we avoided it completely, we would be dead. But if you keep in mind the ABC's of stress management, and apply them in your life, pretty soon you'll find your stress resistance increasing. You may even begin looking forward to new stress-filled situations as challenges to be overcome and mastered.


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1996 Mindscape Limited

Designed By David Lloyd-Hoare Bsc(Hons) MBACP(Accred) INLPTA

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