Stress and how to ease it

How is it that some of us seem to deal with stress and others seem to crumble?

What is stress and how can we improve our emotional resilience? As with many emotional issues the answer is not simple. Each of us is unique and we operate from an exclusive foundation. However, people thinking in a binary, black and white, fixed way can cause stress.

Most of us are good at some things and not so good at others. There will always be someone who is better, faster, prettier, stronger, cleverer, but being OK with who you are and content with how you optimise yourself as a person is healthy. 

“Another big player in creating stress is a lack of positive regard…. from others and towards yourself. ”

This concept of positive regard describes the basic acceptance and support of a person irrespective of that person’s views or actions. Positive regard from others is usually offered, or not offered in childhood and it usually comes from parents. If there is a lack of positive regard a deleterious foundation can be formed, a foundation upon which negative thought processes can develop into negative habits.

A leading light in the theory of personality field, Carl Rogers said:

“As the awareness of self emerges, the individual develops a need for positive regard. This need is universal in human beings, and in the individual is pervasive and persistent. Whether it is an inherent or learned need is irrelevant to the theory.”

So this positive regard is an essential requirement for all humans. So what happens if it’s been a bit thin in supply where you’re concerned?

If there has been a lack of positive self-regard, this is very likely to cultivate a behavioural pattern attributing personal success to coincidence or luck rather than attaching it to talent, ability or hard work.

So three big elements in fostering internal stress are: lack of positive self-regard, a fixed and/or perfectionist attitude and a lack of self-awareness.

So how can we develop positive self-regard, increased flexibility and fuller self-awareness?

Not easily or quickly would be my immediate answer, but…

I often suggest to my clients that they prepare a list of their successes and positive personality characteristics and together we then gradually evaporate the distorting ‘just lucky concept’ and regain a rational sense of achievement and self-praise or positive regard. 

“Being more accepting and flexible is tough, but it moves you away from rights and wrongs and towards acceptance that OK is OK. ”

Thirdly, becoming more self-aware is essential and examination on ones own is very difficult, but mindfully saying, “What do I actually think and feel is the logical ‘no distortion’ truth?”, can help.

The ability of being able to then place a disappointment or set back by assigning it to logical external elements and influences rather than perceived personal failings builds an emotional toughness.  

Dr Judith Johnson a psychologist from the University of Leeds looked at nearly 50 separate academic studies on psychological resilience studies and she suggests: “Negative emotions tap into the basic instinct of fear, so they narrow your life.”

Becoming more self aware and acknowledging and countering perceived imperfections and being more flexible and less fixed would bring about an emotional fluidity. Eventually, nurturing these positive psychological processes will enable you to realise that you are worth it. With the strengthening of your rational internal self-worth your stress will ease, as the world becomes an easier place to be in. 

It sounds a bit boring, but knowing yourself, accepting the true you and aiming for OK is pretty good.

Wednesday 6th November is National Stress Awareness Day. 

The aim of the day is to raise awareness, publicity and profile of stress and its impact, and reduce stigma while promoting the importance of wellbeing and stress reduction for individuals and organisations.

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