Perceptions and Stress
by Peter Shaw
Most life situations are a combination of good and bad factors, or positives and negatives if you prefer. Stress, however, tends to make us see only the negative, and thus a vicious circle is set up. You are feeling stressed, and then something happens which you perceive as negative, and you immediately feel even more stressed. It’s simply the old situation of whether you perceive a glass of water as being half full or half empty.
Your perceptions are frequently linked to your own sense of self worth. Someone with low self esteem will perhaps plump for the “half empty” situation more than the “half full” one. Fortunately, there are several ways of alleviating this situation. Effective stress management does require you to have enough self confidence in your ability to control your life by making sound decisions.
Self confidence is not innate, it is learned. People who are constantly judged as failures eventually see themselves as failures in life. People who are constantly praised and flattered, such as pop music stars, eventually see themselves as super heroes and behave accordingly. Such folk have what is known as a Type A personality, which also develops stress.
Type A Personality Behaviour
Type A behaviour is manifested by two primary indicators; time urgency and hostility.
Examples of time urgency are:
Doing more than one thing at a time to gain efficiency
Finishing people’s sentences because they don’t speak fast enough
Having a fetish about being on time
Walking, talking, eating, reading, & driving fast in order to have more time for other priorities
Avoiding lines in banks, grocery stores, restaurants, at the doctor’s office, and on the golf course
Driving in the fast lane or maneuvering across lanes to gain time advantage
Some examples of hostility are:
Chronic irritability or hyper-aggressiveness
Over-exuberant competitiveness, often with the purpose of dominating the opponent
Deriving joy from emotional debates or arguments, the joy coming from the process itself
Feeling the need to criticize or belittle others; their actions; or their beliefs
Irritation over increasingly trivial events
Using pejoratives such as stupid, ridiculous, idiotic, nonsensical
Difficulty giving or receiving love
(Source: South Asia Heart Foundation)
It is therefore a good idea to be aware of such behaviour in yourself and try to modify it. Try to stop, and smell the roses. Don’t worry about competition – after all, as Lord Keynes pointed out, in the long run we’re all dead anyway!
Try to develop an “attitude of gratitude”. Try to see the glass as half full. Give thanks (to your God, or to the universe, or your higher power, or your guardian angel) for all the positives you can find. Ignore the negatives – they’ll probably never happen anyway.
Most situations have a funny side, if you look hard enough for it. Emphasize it, make the situation as humorous as possible.
Remember and concentrate on these factors, and your stress levels will be far more manageable.