It’s a new year, and with that, many people like to give improving their lives a new go.
So this time around I would like to suggest a shift in perspective.
We all experience stress, that’s normal.
But there are two different ways that we can look at it, which is intrinsically tied to how your entire physiology will respond (and determines whether it affects you negatively).
Stressors can be viewed as a threat or a challenge.
The threat response makes us feel anxious, uncertain, afraid, and tends to be tied to being concerned that we can’t handle a given situation well.
The challenge response makes us feel excited, confident, and even hopeful! This is when we know we have what it takes!
We all know the feeling… the butterflies in the stomach. The blood pressure is up a little.
In the threat response, that’s a constriction to blood vessels to make sure you don’t bleed out easily when you are attacked by the grizzly bear.
That means less blood flow to the brain, which also means clear, logical thinking are taking a dive.
In the challenge response, it’s actually an increasing of blood flow to the brain and heart, allowing for concise thinking and clear actions!
If you’ve been on the threat response side, no worries. We all have been there.
These two responses do feel very similar, which is where perspective comes in.
Next time you notice yourself in a stress response, the butterflies kicking in, take a step back and look at the situation.
Your body is trying to prepare you for what is happening. It isn’t about being butterfly free. You just want those butterflies to get in formation.
But ok. Let’s say you’ve gone through the threat response so often, it is automatic for you and you don’t even notice until you’re fully in it.
Get a piece of paper and a pen. Sit down. Write about your personal values for 10 minutes.
By personal values I mean the things that matter to you, such as being a good parent / member of a community / good at what you do / etc, or your religious beliefs / community service / moral code / etc.
Doing this simple exercise not only decrease stress, it also shifts you into challenge mode instead of threat mode.
Reminding yourself this way of the things that have true value to you has been shown to improve performance, improve grades, turns on the reward area of your brain, and buffers the stress response.
Of course, you know me, so I’d love for you to use this proactively as well.
If you know a big stressor for you is looming ahead, sit down and write about your values for 10 minutes.
If you feel your days are always filled with stress, sit down and write about your values for 10 minutes.
If you feel so lost and don’t know what to do or where to turn, sit down and write about your values for 10 minutes.
If you want to just improve your life in general, sit down and write about your values for 10 minutes.
It really is that simple.