How many times have you been concerned about a friend or other loved one and asked if everything’s all right only to be told, “Oh, I’m just stressed,” as if there’s nothing to worry about?
We often use the words “I’m stressed” casually in our everyday conversations, with little acknowledgment of the adverse effects of stress in our lives. But evidence suggests that we should be much more concerned about our stress levels than we are.
This is what stress can do to you
Center for Disease Control found that 66 percent people say they lie awake at night troubled by the physical or emotional effects of stress, and stress has been linked to many health problems, including obesity and heart disease. Stress not only affects us, but it can impact those around us, too, especially our children.
Not all stress is bad, of course. Stress can also be invigorating or lead us to care about the welfare of others, if channeled in the right way. Nor is it always avoidable—many of us have lives with stressors beyond our personal control.
Psychologists have identified key variable that determine whether stress ultimately affects us positively or negatively:
- Our perception of stress
- The meaning we attach to it
- Our ability to cope with uncertainty and ambiguity
- The degree of control we have over the circumstances that produce the stress
Author feels that by becoming more aware of our biases in perception, we can learn to focus on the truthful assessment of situations we encounter without distorting reality, thereby remaining calm, energetic, creative, and resilient when faced with highly stressful situations. People who suffer from debilitating stress in their lives, often fail to recognise how it impacts their health, relationships, and work lives.
To some extent, we can reduce stress by simply taking good care of ourselves through getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. This is self empathy which is being considerate and compassionate about ones own self. But, to really thrive in the face of stress, we should also work toward finding meaning or purpose in our work or other activities, and toward nurturing our positive relationships using empathy.
By practicing empathic listening with one another instead of falling on our usual patterns, we can get relieved from stress.
What does empathic listening look like? It requires giving up a self-centered view of the world, focusing and paying attention, and setting aside biases or distorted thinking to connect with another person’s emotions. It means coming to your interactions with a true desire for connection and understanding, rather than winning.
Here are some of the recommendations to help people enhance their empathic listening and their ability to express empathy:
- Reflect what others say to you by either repeating or rephrasing what someone has said. It sounds like you had a lot going on today at work, right?
- Emphasize the feeling behind the words and check on the accuracy of your interpretation. You sound exhausted. Is there something affecting you at work?
- Pay attention to body language. You look tense. What can I do to help?
- Ask open-ended questions, to show you are interested in their perspective. How was your day at the office? Not, Why are you so late?
- Slow down and take a deep breath to calm yourself if you are feeling your buttons being pushed or if you are absorbing someone else’s tension. Slowing down your emotional reactions can be helpful for truly tuning in to another person and not being tripped up by your own reactivity. Some people have found that mindfulness meditation, self-compassion, or compassion training can help with this kind of emotional regulation.
- Avoid snap judgments. Empathy means seeing human beings as always changing and evolving; so you don’t want to judge and shut the person down.
- Learn from the past. If you are unaware of your own biases and often jump to conclusions, you will have trouble truly listening to another person and perceiving them accurately. Know your personal biases and use cognitive reframing—a technique that involves reconsidering your interpretations of events, something I describe in detail in my book—to help you reevaluate what’s actually happening in a given conflict or situation versus what you’re telling yourself at the time. By engaging your brain in this way, you can rewire it to be less emotionally triggered and to calm your nervous system.
Contents are from article written by psychologist Arthur P.Ciaramicoli where he has explained how empathic listening may be the key to reducing stress in our lives.
“Learning to communicate with empathy can go a long way toward building more positivity in your relationships and reducing your stress”