October 24, 2012

Why Stress Is Actually Your Best Friend.

Photo: Dave F

Do you get stressed by the rain or do you just get wet?

Ed was born in the in the U.S., Deb across the pond in England. We spent years living there as we had our own TV series in London, and taught workshops throughout Europe. But, little by little, the constant grey and rainy weather was bringing us down. We both were getting very irritated by it until we realized how some people get stressed by the rain, while others just get wet!

Stress is usually thought of as an archenemy, something that gets us into difficult situations, makes us irritable, frustrated, panicked, and even physically sick. For instance, imagine you’re trying to squeeze some toothpaste out of a tube but you’ve forgotten to take the top off. What happens? Deb actually did this in one of her more unaware moments and the toothpaste soon found another way out— through the bottom of the tube and all over her.

Now imagine that the tube of toothpaste is you, under pressure and beginning to experience psychological or emotional stress. But you don’t take your lid off, as it were, by recognizing what’s happening and making time to relax or deal with your inner conflicts. So what happens to the mental or emotional pressure building up inside you?

The fight-or-flight stress response enables you to respond to danger if, for instance, you’re on the front line of a battle or facing a large bear. And even though not many of us are often in those situations, bears do come in many shapes and sizes. Seemingly unimportant events can cause a stress reaction, as the brain is unable to tell the difference between real and imagined threats.

When you focus on your concern about what might happen it can play as much havoc with your hormones and chemical balance as it does in a real situation.

Try remembering a gruesome scene from a horror movie and you’ll feel your back or stomach muscles contract. The images are just in your mind yet they trigger an instant response in your body.

We all respond differently to circumstances: a divorce may be high on the list of stressors for one person but it may be a welcome relief to another. Life-issues that we’re all subject to are stressors for some but not for others. The difference lies in our response, for although we may have little or no control over the circumstances we’re dealing with, we do have control over our reaction to them.

In other words, the cause of stress may not be the external circumstances, such as having too many demands and not enough time to fill them. It’s more likely to be our perception of the circumstances as overwhelming; and our perception of our ability to cope (albeit unconscious), as when we feel stretched beyond what we perceive ourselves to be capable of.

What we believe will color our every thought, word and action.

As cell biologist Bruce Lipton says in The Biology of Belief:

“Our responses to environmental stimuli are indeed controlled by perceptions, but not all of our learned perceptions are accurate. Not all snakes are dangerous! Yes, perception ‘controls’ biology, but… these perceptions can be true or false. Therefore, we would be more accurate to refer to these controlling perceptions as beliefs. Beliefs control biology!”

Thinking that it’s our work, family or lifestyle that is causing us stress—and that if we could only change these in some way then we would be fine—is seeing the situation from the wrong perspective. Rather, it’s the belief that something out there is causing us stress that is causing the stress. And although changing the circumstances certainly may help, invariably, no matter what we do, it’s only a change within our belief system and perception of ourselves that will make the biggest difference.

This is how stress can really be a good friend, as it shows us exactly where we’re not paying attention to the perception we have of our capabilities, to our own needs, to honoring our priorities, and to fundamental relaxation and meditation techniques.

So, if you feel yourself getting stressed turn it into gratitude that it is reminding you to stop and take ten minutes to breathe and chill. Change the voice in your head from “I can’t” to “I can.” Find an affirmation that works for you in order to shift perceptions and belief patterns and to reinforce your strengths. Favorites are: “My mind is at ease and I am capable of doing everything,” or “With every breath I am more relaxed and flowing through my day with ease.”


Meditation – The Best Friend You Will Ever Have: A four-week webinar (on-line course) with Ed and Deb Shapiro, on discovering the greatest friend you could have: meditation. Starts November 5th, but you can join in and download classes anytime.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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