©Arlene R. Taylor PhD

Stress and stressors represent the quintessential different strokes for different folks. One person’s pleasure is another individual’s poison, as the old saying goes. The term itself refers to the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it. Dr. Hans Selye reportedly borrowed the term from the field of engineering and applied it to health care. Even though the term is used commonly, many people cannot clearly explain what stress is although they can often describe problems they believe result from it.

Stress can be broadly classified into three categories:

  • Eustress = mostly desirable stress (e.g., a new baby, career advancement, vacation, marriage)
  • Distress = undesirable stress (e.g., death, divorce, layoff, disease, earthquakes)
  • Misstress = stress that tends to go largely unrecognized (e.g., commuting, technostress, inadequate diet, excessive or prolonged adapting) but that can have as deleterious an effect as distress in the long term. Refer to Prolonged Adaptive Stress Syndrome for additional information.

The brain is believed to be the first body system to recognize a stressor. Within the brain the hippocampus may be the brain organ most susceptible to stress. Studies from the field of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) have shown that what happens in the brain definitely influences what happens in the body. Information about chemical changes in the brain involving neurotransmitters and other informational substances is sent to the immune system, which can be either suppressed or strengthened.

Examples follow of the way in which individual may perceive, respond to, or manage stressors based on innate brain lead.

altPrioritizing Division

altEnvisioning Division

 

Individuals who have their brain’s energy advantage in this division tend to perceive the following as stressors:

  • Lack of data for problem-solving
  • Lack of opportunity to make decisions or to set and attain goals
  • Perceived failure by others to use an inductive/deductive reasoning style

They may be stressed by being shamed for perceived workaholism or from the lack of good support system.

 

Individuals who have their brain’s energy advantage in this division tend to perceive the following as stressors:

  • Lack of variety
  • Forced conformity to routines and rules
  • Expectations for detail accuracy
  • Lack of opportunity to innovate or to
  • problem-solve intuitively

They may be stressed by being shamed for spontaneity and humor, or for their tendency to pursue variety and change, and their penchant for looking at the big picture and/or envisioning years in advance.

 

altMaintaining Division

altHarmonizing Division

Individuals who have their brain’s energy advantage in this division tend to perceive the following as stressors:

  • Frequent interruptions
  • Disorganization in the environment or disruption of the status quo
  • Frequent or forced changes in routines

They may be stressed by being shamed for excessive attention to detail, or for resistance to change

 

Individuals who have their brain’s energy advantage in this division tend to perceive the following as stressors:

  • Lack of a good support system and/or nurturing relationships
  • Failure to experience spirituality
  • Lack of harmony/presence of conflict

They may be stressed by being shamed for oversensitivity, or for excessive emphasis on connection and harmony, or for an inability to establish meaningful connections

 


Stress Management Tips

Stress management strategies may be most effective when they tap into a person’s own innate giftedness. That is, some strategies will be easier to implement and will require less energy to utilize. Therefore, they will tend to be more helpful in managing perceived stressors.
 

altLeft Frontal Lobe

Prioritizing Division

 

altRight Frontal Lobe

Envisioning Division

 

Individuals who have their brain’s energy advantage in this division tend to:

  • Create, set, and pursue identified goal(s)
  • Prioritize and select the best options for success
  • Take charge of their choices
  • Manage willpower
  • Relieve own tension and feel safer by making decisions and trying to tell everyone else what to do—expecting them to “jump to it”

 

Individuals who have their brain’s energy advantage in this division tend to:

  • Notice when things are changing so may be able to stay ahead of some stressors through early recognition
  • Brainstorm options for success
  • Trend data within the big picture
  • Embrace change and be willing to take a risk
  • Relieve own tension through the use of humor (often off-the-wall and rather bizarre humor that other FRs seem to get but that may not be appreciated by other brain leads)

 

altLeft Posterior Lobes

Maintaining Division

altRight Posterior Lobes

Harmonizing Division

Individuals who have their brain’s energy advantage in this division tend to:

  • Pay attention to details
  • Attend to self-care
  • Manage bounded shapes
  • Follow routines accurately and dependably
  • Relieve own tension by maintaining the status quo, invoking rules, laws, and regulations to help bolster their position

 

Individuals who have their brain’s energy advantage in this division tend to:

  • Strive to build nurturing relationships
  • Have and access a support system
  • Connect with nature and sometimes with a Higher Power (as they perceive it)
  • Place great value on a harmonious environment
  • Relieve own tension by spending time in nature

 

Additional Tips to Consider

Knowing who you are in relation to stress management involves identifying your stressors, stress symptoms, and stress patterns.

  1. Stressors. You need to identify your own stressors in order to manage them effectively.
  2. Stress symptoms. Your stress symptoms must be identified before they can be managed.
  3. Stress patterns. Identify and list your stress patterns.

As soon as you recognize a stressor, a stress symptom, or a stress pattern, use a combination of activities to interrupt the stress cycle. These can include exercise, meditation, massage, a change of activities, or even humor. Yes! Learn to laugh at some of the stressors.

Consider utilizing Dr. Herbert Benson’s Quieting Reflex (QR), a strategy designed to counteract the first six seconds of the body's Fight/Flight reaction to a stressful situation by substituting opposite body reactions. There are five steps:

  1. Smile to counter facial tension and alter the brain’s neurochemistry
  2. Self-talk to tell your body to be alert but calm and even amused
  3. Deep Breathe to increase the supply of oxygen at the cellular level
  4. Exhale and relax, allowing your body muscles go limp during the process
  5. Return to normal activity.

When utilized, the Serenity Prayer, from 12-step-program concepts, is a proven formula for managing stressors more successfully:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

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