The word “Stress” actually relates to wear and tear as when the rubber meets the road on a tire or the brake pads pressing up against the rotor in the wheel. The term as it applies to living organisms was first introduced by Hans Seyle in the 1930’s who defined it as the consequence of the failure of an organism (human or animal) to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined. Thus stress symptoms are the manifestation of a chronic state of responses to stress triggers that are actually benign. Even a thought can set off the same response mechanism that would be in play while standing in front of a hungry lion. Hence, Seyle’s definition still reaches to the heart of stress management; the idea of the response being inappropriate and engaging in a process of altering ones misperception of pending disaster or imminent danger.
Human beings live in a world of stimulation. G-d designed the human body to detect and interpret motion, sound, shape, color, odor, moisture, temperature and taste. These are all stimuli that trigger a physical response or an emotional response or both – joy, love, hunger, thirst, sexual arousal, fear, frustration, anger, anxiety, jealousy, and so on. As human beings interact, the response in one person often sets off a response in another.
Moreover, every human response and stimulus is connected. There are various parts of the human body designed to deal with specific sets of things that happen in nature; that is, the nose, eyes, ears, tongue and skin. The brain also learns to respond a certain way to every type of stimulus depending on whether it perceives a threat or enhancement of well being, which then becomes part of a person’s programming. For example, every time I drove near the Stella Doro Bakery in the North Bronx, my mouth would salivate from the aroma of fresh baked cookies. By that time I had already learned to associate that particular smell with sweetness and good feelings.
Therefore, all stressful responses to mundane matters are nothing more than a knee jerk arising out of exposure to a repetitive or traumatic stimulus. In other words, people often react with negative emotion to things that are benign because a particular sight, sound or smell reminds them of an unpleasant past event. Additionally, there are so many of those unpleasant past experiences giving energy to the current state of being that a person can spend years in therapy trying to sort them out.
On the other hand, one can simply alter the existing program to filter out negative stress-producing responses such as anxiety, anger and depression. Since there is a continuous conversation going on inside the head, a person needs only to change the dialogue.