Do You Have Stress, or Does Stress Have You?

Imagine you are trying to squeeze some toothpaste out of a tube but you have forgotten to take the top off. What happens? Deb actually did this in one of her most unaware moments and the toothpaste soon found another way out -- through the bottom of the tube and all over her.

Now imagine that the tube of toothpaste is you, under pressure and beginning to experience psychological or emotional stress. But you don't take your lid off, as it were, by recognizing what is happening and making time to deal with your inner conflicts. So what happens to the mental or emotional pressure building up inside you?

The fight-or-flight stress response brilliantly enables you to respond to danger if, for instance, you are on the front line of a battle or facing a large bear. And even though not many of us ever those situations, bears do come in many shapes and sizes. Seemingly unimportant events can cause a stress reaction, as the brain is unable to tell the difference between real and imagined threats.

If you focus your concern on what might happen it can play as much havoc with your hormones and chemical balance as it does in a real situation. Try remembering a gruesome scene from a horror movie and you will feel the muscles in your back or stomach contract. The images are just in your mind yet they trigger an instant response in your body.

Research shows, as if we didn't know, that job dissatisfaction, moving house, divorce and financial difficulties are at the top of the list of known stressors. But we all respond differently to circumstances: a divorce may be high on the list of stressors for one person but it may be a welcome relief to another. Life-issues that we are all subject to are stressors for some but not for others. The difference lies in our response, for although we may have little or no control over the circumstances we are dealing with, we do have control over our reaction to them.

In other words, the cause of stress is not so much the external circumstances, such as having too many demands and not enough time to fill them. It is more our perception of the circumstances as being overwhelming; and our perception of our ability to cope, as when you feel stretched beyond what you perceive yourself to be capable of.

What you believe will color your every thought, word and action. As cell biologist Bruce Lipton says in his book, The Biology of Belief, "Our responses to environmental stimuli are indeed controlled by perceptions, but not all of our learned perceptions are accurate. Not all snakes are dangerous! Yes, perception "controls" biology, but... these perceptions can be true or false. Therefore, we would be more accurate to refer to these controlling perceptions as beliefs. Beliefs control biology!"

In other words, thinking that it is your work, family or lifestyle that is causing you stress and that if you could only change these in some way then you would be fine, is seeing the situation from the wrong perspective. Rather, it is the belief that something out there is causing you stress that is causing the stress.

And although changing the circumstances certainly may help, invariably, no matter what you do, it is a change within your belief system and perception of yourself that will make the biggest difference.

If you feel like you are getting stressed then take five minutes to breathe and chill. Most importantly, change the voice in your head from "I can't" to "I can." Find a positive affirmation that works for you in order to shift perceptions and belief patterns and to reinforce your strengths, such as: "My mind is at ease and I am capable of doing whatever is needed," and "With every breath I am more relaxed and flowing through my day with ease." Then repeat this over to yourself until you own it!

Ed & Deb are hosts of Going Out Of Your Mind radio on Sundays at 9pm EST on They are the authors of the award-winning book, Be The Change. Deb is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have three meditation CDs. See more at