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Home | Session 1: The Science of Stress | Session 2: Relaxation and Stress | Session 3: Exercise and Stress | Session 4: Stress Resistant Eating | Session 5: Stress Resistant Thinking

Stress Management for Health Course

Thoughts Influence Feelings


Thoughts Influence Feelings


"You can't always influence what others may say or do to you but you CAN influence how you react TO it!"


Many of us are unaware that our thoughts play a large role in influencing how we feel.  This is an important concept because we may not always be able to influence what happens to us but we do have a powerful influence in how we interpret what happens to us and how we deal with it.  No matter what happens to us nobody can take this away from us. 


Some really difficult and painful things may happen to us.  The late Dr Viktor Frankyl who was a Psychiatrist imprisoned by the Nazis in the death camp at Auschwitz saw and experienced with so many others the barbarism of the Nazis treatment of the Jewish people and he saw how other camp inmates reacted to these difficult circumstances to say the least of death and torture.  And he said:


Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose ones attitude in any given set of circumstances to choose ones own way. (Mans Search for Meaning)



Stress and Thinking


Researchers have found that stress alters our thinking so we become more negative and pessimistic.  Stress also interferes with our ability to think clearly; when we are trying to deal with complex, psychological stressors the fight/flight response undermines our ability.   


The brain is 2 pound of the most complex software in the world, but it is really a bit dense.  It cannot work out the difference between a physical threat and a psychological stressor, it triggers the fight/flight response for both types of stressors and, as we discussed in Session 1, the fight/flight response interferes with our thinking.  The fight/flight response diverts blood flow from the higher brain centres that deal with rational, problem solving tasks and diverts it to the lower, reptilian brain.  It does this to help us react automatically without thinking.  This is excellent if we are dealing with a physical, short-term threat such as if we cross the road and a car is nearly upon us, in order to get out of its way and survive we have to act instinctively; if we start thinking about the situation, the car would have run us over before we reacted.  However in the modern complex world these short-term, physical threats to our life are rare, they have been replaced by more chronic, complex, psychosocial stressors, for which we need access to our higher, thinking, problem-solving areas of our brain.


It is not all bad news however, because fortunately we can use stress management techniques to reduce our stress levels and in conjunction with stress resistant thinking skills this will help us to think less negatively, less pessimistically and more clearly to help us solve our difficulties.

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