Zoom-Out on Stress

Here we explore how Zooming-Out can help us view, think about
and act upon stress in the most optimal way

<O> Jump to Stress Zoom-Outs

What is stress?

The first step in Zooming-Out on stress is to reflect on the very nature of stress itself.

We are all familiar with stress, we’ve all experienced it. It’s generally acknowledged that life can be pretty stressful. But what exactly is stress? Here are some dictionary definitions:

“a force exerted on an object that causes strain or deformation”

“subject to pressure or tension.”

“a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.”

“a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

“cause mental or emotional strain or tension in.”

At this point, it’s worth making the distinction between physical stress such as heat, physical pressure on our body, etc and psychological stress. In Zoom-Out we are concerned with psychological stress – which is what people usually mean when they refer to the stress of everyday life.

The role of perspective in stress

I think we can all relate to these definitions of stress but from a Zoom-Out stance, there is a vital piece of the jigsaw missing and that is the role that perspectives and human perception play in stress. Here’s a more helpful definition:

Stress is: “The physiological changes in your body due to external factors that are perceived as threatening harm, loss or misfortune, or as demanding more than you have in resources or capabilities.”

Theresa Fox, DeStressify

This is incredibly empowering! It gives us an extra variable to play with in the stress equation, namely our perspective on an event – the way we are perceiving a “stressful” situation. So in addition to trying to change or avoid the situation, we now have access to a superpower, the ability to also change how we are viewing that stressful situation. Of course, we need to develop this superpower, but Zoom-Out is all about acknowledging and then developing this ability.

We can express this as psychological stress being in the eye of the beholder.

perspective on events

This is ancient wisdom from many different times and places:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

– Shakespeare’s Hamlet

“People are not disturbed by events but by the view they take of them.”

– Epictetus, Stoic philosopher, A.D. 55 – 135

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality”

– Seneca, Stoic philosopher

“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make the world.”

– The Buddha, 563 – 483 BC

Lazarus’ transactional model of stress

In 1976 Richard Lazarus developed what was to become a highly influential model of stress. In his transactional model, cognitive appraisal is the key to understanding stress. Cognitive relates to thinking and appraisal means making a judgement when evaluating a potential stressor.

A person perceives a situation and gives meaning to it. Stress arises when a person perceives that a situation places a strain on them which is greater than their resources.

More generally, the Zoom-Out mindset correlates strongly with our cognitive reappraisal skills. Our ability to step back from a default perspective and find the most helpful perspective is another way of expressing cognitive reappraisal as encoded in some of the Zoom-Out signposts and motto:

You will find that some of the individual Zoom-Outs can help with “coping” with stress in the model as follows:

  • Some Zoom-Outs are “emotion-focused” and help “change the relation to the situation”
  • Some Zoom-Outs are “problem-focused” and help “change the situation itself”
  • Some Zoom-Outs are both “emotion-focused” and “problem-focused”

Perspective on stress itself

It turns out that the rabbit hole goes even deeper than just our perspective on events/stressors. Our perspective on stress itself has a profound effect on the role that stress plays in our lives. It even has an effect on our physical health and life span. If we view stress as damaging and something to be avoided, in the long run, stress will likely make us ill and reduce our life expectancy. If we view stress as a challenge and something that strengthens us then the opposite can be true.

TODO >> QUOTE: McGonnigal

Zoom-Out on arousal and the stress response

TODO: The Capilano Bridge experiment

Stress Zoom-Outs

Many of the general Foundations Zoom-Outs can help with stressful situations.
The following Zoom-Outs are designed specifically to deal with stress.

Stress Audit
Zoom-Out on what stresses you out

Zoom-Out on Automatic Negative Thoughts and our negativity-bias

“Next Positive Action”
Zoom-Out from the stressful thoughts and Zoom-In on the next positive.

Zoom-Out “Catch Phrase”
ZoomOut to turn stressful situations to your advantage

Inverted U
The interplay between pressure, stress and performance

Stretch Zone

Stress Bucket
… (n.b cover sleep here?)

“The Pledge”
Zoom-Out to see and protect yourself from “discretionary” stress

“Wise Distraction”
Zoom-Out from negative thoughts by using distraction wisely

“Blast Radius”
Zoom-Out on the impact of harmful stress and how you might limit it

“Meaning Machine”

“Second Arrow”

“Anxiety is excitement without breath” – Fritz Perls, Founder Of Gestalt Therapy

Stress v Events
To what extent is stress a result of an event?

Zoom-Out to detect burnout early and avoid it

“Story Teller”

“Fact or Fiction”