Stress and Control

In any given situation there are many ways to see the situation and therefore many different ways of handling it. Our response and distress experienced by any situation is determined by the way we perceive, appraise and evaluate the situation. This means that we have far greater control than we may appreciate. Control is a key factor in how we handle stress and its impact upon us.

Learned helplessness in animals has demonstrated the extreme impact of stress on them, the same can be said about human beings. The good news is that if helplessness can be learned, it can also be gradually unlearned. By engaging our internal psychological resources we can take certain degree of control and therefore protect ourselves from increasing internal stress by feelings of despair and helplessness.
Dr Richard Lazarus from University of California at Berkeley suggests the most productive way of looking at stress is in terms of a “transaction” between the person and their environment. He defines stress as ” a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well being”. This means that similar stressful situations can impact differently upon different people. More importantly, it also means that the meaning of the “transaction” in a situation is related to whether a situation is perceived as stressful or not.

Since it is possible to see any particular situation in a variety of ways, this opens the possibility of handling the situation in different ways too. Therefore, the way we perceive, appraise and evaluate any situation also determines how we respond to them and the distress we experience. The ability to see situations in different ways provides us with much more control. By changing the way we see ourselves in the transactional relationship to the situation means we can alter our experience of the relationship and therefore change the impact t which it taxes or exceeds our resources or endanger our well being. (Jon-Kabat-Zinn)

Mindfulness meditation enables us to become aware of the moment to moment experience of our lives, my cultivating awareness of an unfolding situation and its impact upon our thoughts, emotions and body, we can empower ourselves to redirect our attention and awareness towards those actions that would help lessen the impact of a stressful situation.


Symran (by Dav Panesar)

Mindfulness (by Dav Panesar)

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