- When a stressor is identified, a displacement strategy can be put in place to deflect the overload.
- A stress threshold corresponds to the maximum stress intensity you can manage.
- We do not have to blindly accept the consequences of being the victims of stress.
“The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it's your thoughts that create these false beliefs. You can't package stress, touch it, or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking.” —Wayne Dyer
Your stress is self-created; therefore, you can self-limit your stress if you choose to do so. Think about what happens when you are feeling stressed. Are you at work? Is something happening at home? Are you feeling indecisive or fearful? Are you becoming irritated or angry? What about your expectations? Are you a perfectionist? Whatever your triggers are, they are the GPS to a final destination of self-limiting your stress.
Your triggers are your roadmap. They are totally unique to you. They will not be resolved in stress management, where one size fits all. You will have to identify your stressors, regulate them, and then respond in opposition to the normal escalation that holds you hostage. You have the power to take control of what you are used to giving into. Self-imposed stress, which is mostly what happens when you are stressed, can be self-limited.
Create Your Own Thermal Expansion
Human stress has some similarities to the physical stressors of nature:
“A primary stress (internal pressure) can be analogous to a cantilever beam with a weight on the end. If you put too much weight on it, the beam will continue to bend until it breaks. A secondary, self-limiting stress (thermal expansion) would be the same cantilever beam, but instead of imposing an overload, you would impose a set displacement/deflection. Such as—the end of the beam is to deflect 0.25." This would be analogous to a cantilever with a support under the opposite end with a 0.25" gap. The difference between the two is that the secondary, self-limiting stress will not 'continue on' until failure—it will yield until the distance is taken up and then stop." (Anonymous Poster, Mechanical Engineering, 2009)
Humans can create their own thermal expansion through displacement and/or deflection. When the stressor is identified, a displacement strategy can be put in place to deflect the overload. Your displacement is uniquely designed for your stress overload. Too much work, family, conflict, or perfectionism can be displaced or deflected by identifying, regulating, and responding in an oppositional direction than the one previously taken. The stress will still be there but through self-limiting the impact of overload, a breakdown can be avoided.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” —William James
Know Your Threshold
Everyone has a stress threshold; yours is unique to you. A stress threshold corresponds to the maximum stress intensity you can manage. You may be inactive, motivated, or focused, and still have a healthy tension during the buildup of stress. The key is to recognize when you are getting close to your maximum threshold. Your maximum will be different from anyone else's. You will need to be cognizant of your rising pressure/stress to really know your limits and when to respond. Failing to respond could bring you to a tipping point.
Tipping points are still unique. We all have different levels of resilience. Identify what happens when you reach your tipping point. Are you fatigued, exhausted, panicky, anxious, angry, or burned out? What puts you through your threshold and creates a breakdown? Knowing what creates your stress gives you guidance to create alternative outcomes.
Identify Your Eustress and Distress
Eustress is positive stress. Eustress still involves high levels of stress but motivates you to get things done. You are operating within your threshold and eustress works for you, not against you.
Distress, on the other hand, is negative stress. Distress causes your body and mind to crash through your threshold and create negative outcomes like accidents and bad decision-making. Long-term distress has many negative impacts on your body and your mind.
Self-Limit Your Stress
We tend to believe stress is an inevitable part of modern living. And it probably is inevitable. However, we do not have to blindly accept the consequences of being the victims of stress. We can, instead, take more responsibility for self-limiting the stressors that affect us personally by identifying, regulating, and responding in different ways than we usually do. To do this, we need to know our threshold for stress, our tipping points, and whether our stress is positive or negative.
Self-limiting your stress may be a long-term process. Appreciate your successes and try to focus less on your failures. The ultimate goal is to gain more control over something that has controlled you, maybe for years.