Episode 128: Let’s Talk about Stress Baby
Hans Selye said, “It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” You, yes you, the one listening to the podcast – do you have stress in your life? Do you think of that stress as being good or bad?
In today’s episode we’re going to talk about the S word! Yup – Stress. Who can’t use a few empowering tips and stories about this constant state of the 21st century? Stay tuned for insights from a lot of great minds on this topic.
Stories are our lives in language. Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. I’m Lori Lee, and I’m excited for our future together of telling stories, evaluating our own stories, and lifting ourselves and others to greater places because of our control over our stories. This podcast is about empowerment and giving you, the listener, ideas to work with in making your stories work for you. Power serves you best when you know how to use it.
What if stress isn’t what you’ve always thought it was? I’m going to start today’s discussion with some scientific research and then we’re going to hear from folks like the Dalai Lama and Marcus Aurelius, and when we’re done, you just might see things a little differently.
So, starting with a TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, where she makes her confession – that the idea she’s been teaching about stress and seeing it as the enemy has been all wrong. Listen to this research study she did and then let’s talk about this new way of seeing things:
So…if we view our body’s response to stress and fabulous programming that’s helping you rise to the challenge, how does it change your aversion to stress?
Dalai Lama said, “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we obtain peace within ourselves.”
What if part of that peace is a shift of a story. The shift of the story that stress is bad, that life is overwhelming, that I can’t possibly handle this intensity of living, to the story that your body’s response to stress is healthy, helpful, and manageable? Well first off, if you change the story and you tell yourself this new truth, your body believes you and your responses internally change. That inner peace with a clearer understanding becomes a stepping stone for a more peaceful outer world. We can create a new understanding and story about the physical effects of stress.
Now, another great thinker, Marcus Aurelius shares wisdom about the psychological power we have regarding what we allow to cause us stress. He said, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
Let me repeat that: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
Gosh that does two things – First, it means you and I have to take responsibility for our mental state, but second, that means we suddenly have control. Yay!
Let me state the obvious in a few examples – if you have a set of internal stories about how thin and lifeless your hair is, well, regardless of if that’s true, that in and of itself does not cause pain, it’s the fact that you find it unacceptable that causes you the pain. If you have a belief that reading a book is painful – it’s not that reading a book is actually painful, it’s that you chose to see it as painful. If you have issues around money and your car breaks down and you have to pull out the credit card for a new fuel line – this experience is only painful if your mindset creates pain around it.
I hear over and over – “well, we can’t help what we feel,” and I understand that idea very well. When I deeply feel irritated or disappointed and it’s a natural response to something, I don’t want to take responsibility for that. Sometimes it feels very justified, but the truth is that for our own peace of mind there are things that we can start to shift to help us let go of our own estimates of pain. Last week I was irritated that a certain friend chose to spend time elsewhere, other than with me. So, I stopped and acknowledged the disappointment, but then moved on to the idea that I can build a story around this as a rejection, or I can create thoughts about how nice it was for this person to spend time with their family. Which one is going to support me best? Which one will support my relationship? Which one will create stress and unhappiness and which one will create peace? The truth bomb here is that we control our stress levels with our stories.
So, we’re not just about talk – we’re about action. So here’s a little how-to on the Cognitive Restructuring front: a 3 step process
1.Identify the thoughts that are causing you stress and anxiety, depression or self-doubt.
If you have a belief that you are unlovable, or dirty or a bad mom, or that everyone else knows the key to happiness and you’re the only one missing the key. I’m not good enough. I’m not skinny enough. My ADHD means I can’t do this. – Identify the thought/s.
2. The exercise of noticing when you feel that way will become a habit. After you notice, follow the thought back to see where it stems from.
For example, you notice that you are stressed that your sister and her husband are coming for dinner. You don’t want to feel stressed, you know it’s not that big of a deal, so you start following the thought bread crumbs back…I’m feeling stressed because I still have to pick up celery for the soup. I know I can do it on the way home from work, but there are 5 or 6 steps to get dinner ready and what if I don’t have time to set an Etsy appropriate table? Why do I care about this? I care because my sister is always sharp, on the ball, I’ve always felt like she was judging how frumpy my life looked in comparison. Why do I think she thinks this? I don’t know, but she must. Who wouldn’t? So, this stress is about the created worry that my sister will judge me? What if she does? What if I just made a good meal, broke bread with family in love and worried less about appearances? How would the love I bring change my feelings and any potential judgment?
3. Once you find the original source of the stress and challenge that thought, you begin to release old stories and emotionally negative beliefs, and this can change your feelings. There is an intimate link between what we think and what we feel. Cognitive restructuring allows you to change the way you feel by changing what you think. It’s a process of replacing damaging thoughts and beliefs with more accurate and beneficial beliefs. You target the thoughts causing you the anxiety, depression and pressure and stress.
So…let’s recap – #1 – the new research on stress is that it only causes physical harm when you believe that it causes physical harm. So you can change your physical response to stressful situations by claiming the new things we know about appreciating the bodies systems for helping you to prepare for your highest performance level.
#2 Again, is in the mind – the only external things that cause you to stress are the ones that you internally have stories around the nature of the thing or event. So again, you can recognize and adjust your own irritation, stress, crazy levels by considering the internal stories you have around them.
Albert Schweitzer said, “The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds.”
And, last but not least – your challenge this week is to use the cognitive restructuring steps on just one thought that’s causing you stress or discomfort this week. Just try it out.
I love this final quote because it’s an ode to our beautiful complexity as human beings and our creative, messy space of figuring out how to live well and create our best life stories: It’s by Audre Lorde. She said,
“I am my best work—a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines.”
Have a great week people. Thanks for being here. Please access the loveyourstorypodcast.com website and take advantage of the online courses for reframing your stories that are holding you back, or getting started on the 21-LIFE Connection challenges for creating your best life purpose with these 21-Life Hacks.
See you next week people! Live your best life story.