Stress vs Stressors
Each of us has our own threshold for the stress response. This threshold is the point at which a stressor causes the body to go into hyper- or hypo- arousal.
The stressors themselves might come at work, at home, or on our commute in between. Stressors are everywhere and we all experience them every day.
And the stressors are relatively uniform for all of us.
We all get stuck in traffic.
We all worry about life's obligations.
We all get busy sometimes.
But, as each of us has our own threshold for the stress response, some people are able to take stressors in stride while others experience dysregulation.
At one point in my life, a delay like a traffic jam would send my blood pressure through the roof, create tension in my chest and create the most isolating, pessimistic, and catastrophizing thoughts.
Yet, there were people in the cars around me, stuck in the same traffic, who were content and calm. (I know there were such people, because I asked around and found them.)
So, what's the difference between the person in the car next to me, enjoying the moment of calm, and me, the guy with the vice-like grip on the steering wheel?
Turns out, the difference lies within. That is, it has nothing at all to do with the traffic.
When we believe the situation is overwhelming and, ultimately, unsafe for us, we experience the stress response. This belief often grows from a seemingly innocuous thought like "This traffic is bad" or "I hate traffic."
But when we can consciously attend to the present moment experience, recognizing that we are safe and we avoid labeling the experience as either 'good' or 'bad', we tend to avoid the stress response all together.
And in those times we do experience stress, we recognize it very quickly and are able to regulate our bodies, emotions, and thoughts more efficiently, as we learn, grow, and even heal through the difficult moments of our lives.