Stress is How You Perceive It

I was recently reminded of an experiment that illustrates the ways in which our thoughts affect our bodies. A psychologist was teaching a seminar on stress management. She held up a glass of water. The audience expected her to ask whether they thought the glass was half full or half empty. Instead she asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?”

“8 ounces,” someone offered.

“20 ounces given the combined weight of the glass,” someone else called out.

The psychologist replied: “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

Put down the glass!! Some comments, reactions, thoughts or feelings get to us more than others. Sometimes, we end up thinking about a hurtful comment for hours after it was said. We can’t get it out of our minds and we ruminate about it, which only causes us to relive how the caustic comment made us feel when it was first delivered. If we don’t find a way to let it go, the stress from that comment will literally eat away at us. It may not happen that day or that month, but eventually, those thoughts and feelings, if not given some sort of outlet or way to be processed, will begin to show up in the body.

If you’ve ever felt sad or blue about something, you know that you also feel heavy and the idea of curling up on the couch in front of the TV sounds more appealing than exercising or dancing with friends. That’s because the heavy thoughts create a heavy feeling in your physical body not just in your mind. When you’re happy you’re more energized.

The same principle applies to various experiences, situations, or remarks we don’t think affect us at all. So what if we have too much work to get done every day? There’s nothing we can do about it, we might think, so we push it out of our minds. What we don’t give expression to can also cause us to feel more stress.

Stress, in all its forms, needs to be processed and dispelled from your mind and body so that it doesn’t cause physical or emotional harm. There are various ways to let go of stress. One way is to write down a list of everything that bothered you that day. You don’t have to go into detail unless you want to. The point is to write it down so that it doesn’t feel like a burden you’re holding onto. Talking to a trusted friend of family member about the things that annoyed you, exercising, or even doing breathing exercises with the intention of releasing the stress on your exhale are all ways to let go of daily stress. Whatever you decide, try and make it a daily habit so that you don’t carry the stress with you i

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