That was the first question Dr. Bevilaqua addressed last Wednesday.
A volunteer from the audience wrote down the responses that were brainstormed by the audience. A variety of responses abounded:
- feeling out of control
- feeling helpless
- feeling overwhelmed
- too much to do and not enough time to do it
- high expectations
- high stakes
- the “fight or flight” response (he told us “they” also have added “freeze”)
- the body’s response to a perceived threat (that was mine!)
The list was much longer, but they started to morph into manifestations like:
- stomach aches
- school avoidance
- negative self talk
It was clear that the audience was very clear on what stress is and how to identify it. Most likely, it was from first-hand appearance.
Not to toot my own horn, but of all the people who offered responses, mine was the only one that made him do a double-take. He really like that “perceived” qualifier, and I think it’s important to recognize that distinction.
While I’m not suggesting we ignore our brain’s response to a stimuli (in the form of adrenaline, among others) — which can have its own set of negative consequences — I am saying that if we can change our perception of an event, we can retrain our brain how to react to the situation, thereby actually changing our stress level.
Think of a dog running toward you. If you like dogs, it’s a happy moment. But if you fear them, you are in a panic. The dog hasn’t changed; you have. You might defend your fear by saying, “But what if the dog is mean? I should be afraid, right???” Possibly. But what does running away from a mean accomplish? They chase you even faster. Better to face the dog and stand your ground. And for that, you’ll need to be prepared.
Changing perception — and having a good skill set for when stress is unavoidable — is the key to managing stress with the ultimate goal of staying stress-free… which you’d think is the goal of the workshop…
But that’s not exactly what happened over the course of the evening…
Make it your #153Promise to come back tomorrow for the next installment of my notes on the “Stress Workshop” I attended last week.