Stress Response and Emotional Balance

Many people are confident in their response to stress whether that be everyday challenges, disputes, ongoing negativity or crisis — yet is that confidence always warranted? Often, what they’re doing is constructing a belief that is ignorant at best or at worst, dangerous self deception.

There is a difference between confidence and trustworthiness. Confidence is easy when we are willing to assume falsely or self deceive. It can be easily be misplaced in what is not reliable. Trustworthiness, meanwhile, is much more difficult to come by because the standard is higher. Yet, it is something that is “bankable,” in that it is rooted in proof and reality.

So how is a trustworthy response to stress defined and how does someone develop it? For the purpose of this article, it is a thoughtful, poised, wise response, instead of a poorly control emotional reaction, to stress and other people, that is moral, emotionally intelligent and does not harm others or our reputation.

That might sound simple (even if not always desirable) yet observation of the people and life around us shows it is not as common as it should be and could be in humanity. Why? Because we can be highly reactive. Those who don’t skillfully conduct themselves in stress are not always other people. Oftentimes, it’s us.

Developing a response that is better or masterful that can be objectively defined as trustworthy requires higher-level personal development than is often natural to our mind, impulse control and actions. We don’t come out of the womb preprogrammed to expertly respond to the stress this world presents.

Some people with troublesome reactions and responses to stress assume they have mastered their response even when their history proves otherwise. This blind spot is a perilous place to be for their personal and professional lives. It can also be highly problematic for some people with whom they cross paths.

Learning is always possible. The question is, who is receptive and teachable and who isn’t? Self awareness and motivation are critical drivers of personal development. This is easier for some people than it is others but it’s rarely simple for anyone.

Those who respond most impressively and honorably to stress have had to work at it and still work at it. It takes practice, adjustments, learning, trial and error, honestly and commitment. Yet by doing so, people can learn to ingrain it in their thinking and behavior to where it becomes habit. Practice can pay off exceedingly well, with excellent rewards.

A response that can protect us and others from our tendency for poor judgment and regrettable or shameful reactionary choices is a response that has been thought out wisely, practiced and successful at taming our amygdala, that part of our brain that processes emotion and where we experience a fight-or-flight moment and can put our name, reputation and well-being at great risk.

Without understanding of the powerful forces of the amygdala, it is unlikely we will take the necessary steps to counteract what it can strongly nudge us in the direction to do that is unwise or foolish.

Effective stress management is learning to absorb thoughts, feelings, attitudes and reactionary urges without being negatively controlled by them like a puppet and acting out in a variety of selfish, incredibly suboptimal or reckless ways.

This is done through a variety of ways — learning our triggers, defusing self talk that can lead us in the wrong direction, breathing exercises to slow down and better manage our thinking, healthy relaxation techniques, forward thinking and asking smart questions of ourselves to determine smarter choices.

These steps help us with emotional balance and resilience. It can be simple or challenging, depending on our thinking traps and habits yet it is always possible to be receptive to learning, engage in it and be disciplined to achieve improvement and further develop personally.

The benefits can be and are often more than worthwhile. They are protective and helpful in problem solving stress.

M.J. Toebe leads Quality Stress Response, helping individuals and organizations with best understanding their interpretations, reactions and responses to stress and developing reliable strategy that they can count on for success in their personal and professional lives.