Our Stressful World

A message from leadership expert Jim Stovall.

Among the many changes in our world that our parents or grandparents would find most startling here in the 21st century is the level of what we call stress. Most of us would define stress as too many activities with not enough time or the heightened pressure to produce unreasonable results.

In reality, behavioral scientists would tell us that there are three components to this feeling:  stress, stressors, and our explanatory style.

Stress is an internal feeling we have accompanied by a number of symptoms including headache, increased respiration, rapid heartbeat, and breaking out in a cold sweat among others.

Stressors are external forces that we come into contact with such as unreasonable deadlines, arguments with colleagues or family members, job pressure, or financial problems among many others.

The factor we must keep in our minds in order to achieve success and happiness is that stressors do not produce stress. You can have two people confronted by the same stressors, and you may likely find that one experiences extreme anxiety and stress while the other remains calm and relaxed. The difference between these two individuals’ reactions to stressors is what psychologists call their “explanatory style.”

Our explanatory style is much like a filter that is between us and the world around us.  When an external stimulus encounters our explanatory style, it determines whether or not to trigger stress in our mind or body. The important thing for us to realize is that we have a considerable amount of control over our explanatory style. We can adjust our filters to create more or less stress in our lives regardless of the stressors that may confront us.

It would not be possible, reasonable, or even practical to adjust our filter or explanatory style to eliminate all stress. If your house catches fire, your child is in an accident, or an out-of-control truck veers toward the car you are driving, you should feel stress. This is a normal and healthy reaction to the stimulus presented; however, if you’re feeling stress due to a neighbor’s criticism, repeated telemarketer calls, an impatient motorist honking their horn, or most other external potential stressors, you can alter your explanatory style to ignore these factors or, at least, greatly diminish the amount of stress they place in your life.

We’ve all met people who seem to be always on edge and under stress, and we’ve met other people who seem to stay cool and collected regardless of the circumstance. To a great extent, we get to choose which type of person we want to be and how we let stressors impact us.

As you go through your day today, expect stressors but avoid stress.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker.  He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK  74145-9082; by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stovallauthor; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor.

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