top of page

Ease Stress by Understanding your Perspective About Stress

There is a large body of psychological research on acute and chronic stress that provides useful frameworks for understanding our experience of life's stressors. Here are four key takeaways regarding how our perceptions and attitudes surrounding our experience of stress play a tremendous role in our resilience and psychological well-being.


Take An Active Role In Your Health and Wellness

People do better and feel better when they are able to take an active role in their own physical and emotional health. Self-efficacy -- or a belief in our own ability to succeed in a particular situation -- leads to more positive health outcomes (e.g., less feelings of distress, less chronic pain) especially during times of stress. A belief in our competence, effectiveness, and causal agency can help us adopt behaviors that are related to


better health outcomes.  In addition, a belief in our abilities can have positive physiological effects on our body's response to stress (including the immune system). Sometimes it helps to seek out more information; other times it helps to take active steps towards better health and easing stress.


Shift Our Mindset And Perception About Stress

Since we can't get rid of stress, can we make ourselves better at handling stress?  How we think about stress changes how we respond to it. Viewing stress as harmful leads to less-than-helpful coping strategies (over-eating, excessive drinking, procrastination to avoid stress, etc.). We can balance our perceptions about stress by incorporating the following perspectives:  1) know that fear, anxiety and worry are normal responses to uncertainty, stress, and traumatic events, and that 


acknowledging those emotions (without dwelling on them) is valuable; 2) become aware of what you can and cannot have control over -- and know that taking steps to reduce excessive worry is something we do have control over; 3) view stress as energy you can use positively rather than becoming stuck in rumination; 4) see stress as something that everyone deals with so it is not just you; and 5) gain a big-picture perspective by knowing that this will pass at some point. 


The "Just Right" Goldilocks Approach

Some people react to stressful events with an over-preparedness approach which is often mixed with anxiety, fear, and panic (e.g., panic-buying 100 rolls of toilet paper). Others are under-prepared; these people prefer to avoid the issue and not deal with it, either due to overwhelm or thinking it won't happen to them. An in-between view is the "just-right" Goldilocks approach, which encompasses a more balanced perspective. These people may take


active and wise steps to prepare for challenge and  uncertainty, without being overwhelmed or avoiding the stressful event. Becoming mindful and aware of when we are over-preparing and over-reacting from a place of fear and excessive worry, and when avoidance is less helpful, can help us arrive at a more balanced and calm way of understanding and acting. 


The Possibility of Post-Traumatic Growth

Times of great stress and crisis can be difficult and debilitating. Sometimes after a crisis or stressful event people just want things to go back to the way things were before. Other times something called post-traumatic growth can occur, in which enhanced personal growth and transformation can happen following adversity. This idea is present in ancient spiritual and religious traditions, literature, and philosophy. Although a complex concept in psychological terms,


post-traumatic growth is thought to be connected to the following positive responses:  increased appreciation of life, deeper relationships with others, imagining new possibilities in life, enhanced personal strength and resources, and spiritual growth and change. Those who grow and are transformed by their struggles with adversity can have a renewed sense of purpose, a stronger connection to what matters and what is meaningful in their lives, and a greater connection to others and to helping others (making a contribution). It doesn't mean that adversity is desirable or that we won't suffer; it just means we may potentially be transformed for the better not despite the crisis, but because of it. 

bottom of page