What role does your mind play in responding to stress?

May 24, 2022 | 11 comments

While we can’t take away all of your stress, we can better equip you to deal with it. We’re excited for you to have this 4-part series by Russell Semon in which he answers four key questions about stress:

Part 1: What is Stress?

Part 2: How does your body respond to Stress? (Physiology)

Part 3: What role does your mind play in responding to Stress? (Belief / Perception)

Part 4: Is it possible to live a Stress-Free life?

Today, we continue with “What role does your mind play in responding to stress?” As we’ve done throughout the series, you can win one of 5 free Cerny Smith (stress) Assessments worth $200 by leaving a comment on this post. If you’ve never heard about the CSA, learn more here. On to today’s article!


Have you heard the saying that “Seeing is Believing”? But you’ve probably seen things you didn’t believe. Or maybe you’ve seen things that others didn’t see. Did you see the image of the white and gold dress that circulated the internet six or so years ago? Ok, maybe you remember it as the blue and black dress. (If you missed it then, google it.) A study was performed with 1,401 people, responding to the dress color; 57% saw blue/black, 30% saw white/gold, 11% saw blue/brown, and 2% saw something else. So, maybe seeing isn’t as reliable as one might think. 

How do you “see” stress? Your perception is important to how you respond to stress. It’s also important to realize that they way you see it may be different than how others may see it. Seeking to understand different perspectives, or changing your perspective can enhance your ability to respond effectively to stress in your life.

I recently read a book titled Saying is Believing by Amanda Drury. One of the statements she made in the book is “narrative does more than describe, it also constructs.” As I listen to those I counsel, I hear their life narrative and the words they use reflect not only events, experiences, or circumstances, but the words reveal how they have attributed meaning to the event and how this meaning and their beliefs have shaped their sense of self.

In other words, how it has shaped their identity. The narrative, in this case, the words they use have been repeated in various forms in casual or serious conversations. Sometimes this has gone on for many years, and the words have not only been useful as descriptions, but they have served to construct how an individual sees themselves, others, and the world around them. Our words reflect the beliefs that underlie, support, construct our life’s narrative. 

Here are a few of the beliefs that are embedded in the narratives I hear. 

           — I can’t handle this.

           —I don’t measure up.

           —I’m a victim.

           —My past determines who I am.

Can you see how these beliefs could be counterproductive in responding to stress? How they could even of themselves, lead to stress, anxiety, or other life challenges?

Contrast the beliefs above with the following statements/scriptural truths.

           — I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

            —I’ve been made perfect by His sacrifice. (Hebrews 10:14)

            —We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

            —In Christ I am a new creation, the old has gone, the new is here. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Your perception, what you say about yourself, your beliefs and your life’s narrative may not change the actual stressors you face, but they can change three key areas.

  1. The stressors impact, 
  2. The stressors influence, or 
  3. The stressors consequences.  

Paul set an example for us in his second letter to the Corinthians, telling them to not lose heart, explaining that though his outer self was wasting away, his inner self was being renewed daily.  He pointed out that his perception of the affliction he faced was that it was light and momentary, in view of its eternal benefit. He goes on to say that though we focus on things that are seen, what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Paul’s perspective didn’t stop the affliction, but it did impact how he perceived his affliction and how his affliction affected him.  

When I received word of my cancer diagnosis in December 2020, my perspective and my narrative were challenged. I saw the scans, I heard the words of the physician, I recognized my inability to change the reality of the presence of the disease. I also trusted the words in Psalms 139, that God had ordained all my days before one of them came to be and that His ways, His thoughts were far greater than mine or the doctors’. With God’s grace, the support and prayer of many, and my belief, I found a sense of peace and rest that supported me through the year of treatment. My perspective and the narrative that I lived, influenced my response, which effected the impact of the stress of the disease and treatment.

Luke 6:45 says, “… for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks….” If you find yourself under stress presently, see if a change in perspective, an honest inventory of your beliefs might reveal where you can find strength, hope, and resources, from which you can overcome the weight of the challenges you face. If you find yourself in a period of rest or peace, “…guard your heart with all vigilance, for out of it flows the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23)

That is my hope and prayer for you. As you grow in your understanding and knowledge of stress, you’ll be able to “keep your heart” more easily. In the next and final article in this series, I’ll talk about whether or not it’s possible to live a stress-free life.

Leave a comment on today’s post, and you’ll be entered to win one of the FIVE free CSA’s available today. Winners have been drawn … but you still have one more opportunity to win by leaving a comment on part 4 in this series! To be sure you don’t miss out, subscribe to the blog here.

Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash

Russell Semon

Husband, Father, Counselor, Stress Specialist, Fan of life-long learning

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11 Comments

  1. Karrie

    What a great reminder that, while we may not have control over our stressors, what we believe can influence their impact, influences, and consequences in our lives. Practically speaking, this makes me think of how “renewing our minds” with Scripture is vital.

    Reply
  2. Jennifer

    Another great article, thank you. I felt the difference in the two different approaches and this made me aware of some of the times I’ve felt more stress and what I could do next time, to decrease the stress in how I am thinking about the situation.

    Reply
  3. Michele

    This is very connected to how I teach (and do) spiritual warfare: tearing down strongholds in the mind and lining our thoughts up with the truth of God’s word.

    Reply
  4. Suzy

    Such good and encouraging words – thank you. A good reminder for me as I am going through a stressful time. What you say is similar to the lessons I have been learning but it is good, and affirming, to read it so clearly stated.

    Reply
  5. Bel

    This is both challenge and encouragement.

    “Paul’s perspective didn’t stop the affliction, but it did impact how he perceived his affliction and how his affliction affected him”. So good.

    Asking myself honestly today – what are narratives, beliefs and perspectives am I making and holding? What is the meaning and truth I’m speaking into my heart?

    Reply
  6. Heather Fowler

    While not a tattoo kinda girl, I seriously pondered the potential benefits of a tat reminding me of His presence, His call, His grace. Probably near me watchband. More important than the time of day.

    Reply
  7. Karen

    This is helpful … such a good reminder of the importance of asking God to give me the “lenses” to see things from His perspective.

    Reply
  8. Joan Justiniano

    I find that obedience to the admonition to “rejoice always” does wonders for stress! The very act of trusting God enough to rejoice in the midst of stress, essentially putting the situation into the Father’s hands, is so transformative. As you say, the situation doesn’t magically disappear, but its power over me is gone as I focus on all the reasons to rejoice in the Lord.

    Reply
  9. Paulette

    Thank you for sharing part of your story with us, and for the challenging insights about how narrative and perspective can influence our response and change those three key areas in the midst of stress.

    Reply
  10. Dina

    Bless you for sharing your story. I, too, had a cancer diagnosis … doc said “I’d be fine” when she saw the positive attitude I brought to the journey (but after grieving a loss). I also work to be diligent to “distill” stressful moments and poor/wrong/bad decisions. I ask myself, next time, in a similar situation, what choice/action would have been better? Your article encouraged me and reminded me to stay the course. I am yearning for more. Looking forward to your next article.

    Reply
  11. Neal Pirolo

    Russell, as I read this third segment, I was thinking I would not have anything to share…until your mention of cancer. I don’t know what kind you have, how it was treated, what the prognosis of its return might be. However, if/when it “comes back” (NO! BEFORE IT COMES BACK), I would suggest an alternative treatment which has been CURING cancer for 60+ years, including my wife, 40 years ago. (We will enjoy our 65th wedding anniversary on June 8.) If you are interested, I have written a booklet, JOURNEY OF HOPE, following the lives of ten friends of mine, sharing the good and the not-so-good. I would be happy to send it to you. ~~~NEAL

    Reply

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