All stress begins with a thought. It isn’t what’s happening “out there” that initiates the stress response. It’s how we interpret what’s happening “out there” that causes us to become stressed or not. We call this a perception of a threat. If we think this situation will lead to some kind of pain (emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical), we turn on the stress response automatically to prepare for the potential pain. The potential pain is what we call a “threat.” Prevention of stress, then, is best done by focusing on our thoughts, by changing how we think about those things we think are threatening.
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This first Blog looks directly at our thoughts and some things we can ask ourselves to help us prevent stress:

  1. Is the threat real? What is the perceived threat? What is the likelihood of this perceived threat actually happening? What is the chance of its occurrence? (Almost always the answer to this is that the threat is rarely going to hurt us.)
  2. Can I handle this? (Our past experience tells us that we can always handle things)
  3. Is the perceived threat one which I can do something about? Is it in my circle of concern or my circle of influence? (As one of my wise students once told me, “If you have control over it, there’s no need to worry about it. If you don’t have any control over it, you also don’t need to worry about it. There is nothing else. So why worry?)
  4.  Can I think about this differently? There are hundreds of ways to interpret the situation differently. That is the wonderful thing about free will or our innate freedom to choose.

Sometimes we forget these things and the stress response turns on. When that does, we need specific ways of turning it off. This involves relaxation exercises and coping skills.

All of these things will be treated as we explore this exciting field of study that relates directly to you and me.

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58 Comments

  • Amanda

    I really like what your student said about if we have control over it we don’t need to worry and if we don’t have any control over it we also don’t need to worry. That is something that I forget often. The mind is a powerful thing and simply thinking something elicits all kinds of responses whether we are aware of them or not. Just as our thoughts can cause us stress, we can learn to control them to reduce our stress.

  • I really enjoyed the information the article had to offer. I found the statement about not stressing over things we cannot control to be the most valuable piece of information. This article brought personal awareness to stress that I can eliminate based on the fact that it’s uncontrollable.

  • Alexandria Green

    I really liked this artice. It really put it into prespective how much our thoughts really do effect our level of stress. If we think happy thoughts and have faith that we can get through anything, it will help with whatever we are going through at the time.

  • Melissa Weston

    I really like this article. I like how it says prevention of stress is done by focusing on our thoughts. I completely agree with this. All of my stress comes from my thoughts and not because the stress is actually there. I find that by just asking myself if I can handle it almost always helps minimize my stress because it makes me realize I can handle it.

  • Jase Christiansen

    I really like when this article talks about not worrying or dwelling on things that are out of our control. I always tell my wife that there is no sense crying over spilled milk. I think that most people have a difficult time with this. When we are “in the moment”, it is hard for us to think outside of our current position. Things happen to us everyday and it is up to us to decide how we will act.

  • Meg Miles

    I really like this idea. We tend to forget exactly how powerful our minds our and the effects it has on us emotionally and even physically. If we could always just approach situations with the thought that we can handle it and that we want to handle it in the healthiest way possible, that could make all the difference.

  • Jason Marden

    It is amazing how much our mind impacts our body. Over the semester I have tried to control my thoughts so my stress response doesn’t get activated unless it needs to. It is amazing how much better I feel every single day. I have more control, concentration, and am much happier.

  • Carolyn Ashby

    I feel it is imperative to understand that we are the captains of our own ships so to speak. When you realize and put into action the idea that the world is not a stressful place it is your own thoughts creating that perceived stress. You can think of a hundred things that most likely won’t happen. I feel it essential to start with learning about how we control our thoughts and feelings. It helps you to put into perspective what is real and when you are just being drama. This alone will reduce your stress.

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