Do you have a useful way in which to respond to stress? Dr. Hans Selye, also known as the “father of stress,” once shared an interesting story about the impact of stress on the lives of two young boys who were raised by an alcoholic father.
As these boys grew older, they moved away from their broken home and alcoholic dad; and each of the boys took a separate path in life.
Several years later, after becoming adults, the two brothers happened to be interviewed separately by a psychologist who was researching the lives of children who were raised by parents with alcoholism.
The psychologist’s research revealed that the two men had grown up to become completely different people.
One of the brothers decided to live a clean life and avoid alcohol altogether.
But his brother became a raging drunk, just like his dad.
Here’s the interesting part…
When the psychologist asked each of them about why they turned out the way they did, each of the men gave the exact same answer: “What else would you expect when you have a father like mine?”
Here’s the take-away from this story: it’s not what happens to you in life that makes the difference, it’s how you RESPOND to what happens to you that makes the difference. It’s about how you respond to each of the circumstances you encounter in life that determines the result of how you experience your life.
Everyone—regardless of individual situation or circumstance—has the gift of choice. You get to choose how you’ll respond when something stressful happens in your life. Will you choose to respond as the victim or the victor? Will you choose to respond with negativity or positivity?
It really is up to you.
Stress is self-created.
Stress is self-created. When you’re stressed out, it’s not because of some outside force. It’s because you’re allowing that outside force to puncture through the invisible walls of your mind and poke holes in your sense of self-worth and security.
Stress isn’t caused by something on the outside, it’s caused by something on the inside… It’s caused by the way we PERCEIVE what happens in our lives.
Outside events and other people can stress out or upset some people more than others, because they’re perceived and dealt with in entirely different ways. The stressors might even be the same in each case, but the responses will almost always be different in different people. What seems like a cold and stressful world to one person might be a world filled with challenge and opportunity to another. It is our response that makes the difference.
With this new understanding, it would seem that we can dramatically improve our responses to stressful situations.
3 Steps to Respond to Stress Constructively
Here’s my 3-step method for responding to stress and handling it in the most constructive way possible:
- PAUSE: Just like you’d hit the pause button ⏸ while you’re listening to music, hit the pause button on stress by: pausing the chatter in your mind and taking three slow breaths—in through the nose, out through the mouth. Doing this will temporarily calm the stressful emotions you’re feeling in the moment.
- PERCEIVE: Remind yourself that stress is self-created, and remember that you get to choose how you want to feel in any given situation. Whatever the stressors may be—too much to do, financial issues, health issues, a tough childhood, etc.—you can perceive that these circumstances are all meant to hold you back in life, OR you can perceive them as opportunities to grow and become a better version of yourself.
- PROCEED: Once you put things in perspective, it’s a lot easier to decide how to proceed—which is the third and final step for responding to stress constructively. When something negative or stressful happens, you can decide whether it crushes you or whether it becomes your impetus for action. What would it feel like if you overcame this issue? What’s one thing you can do right now to get back on track? Decide on a single action you can take right away and get started.
Pause (take a beat and breathe), Perceive (remind yourself that stress is self-created), and Proceed (to live like you give a damn!)