Saturday, November 29, 2008

Understanding the Psychology of Stress

In previous chapters, I discuss the physiology of stress: how your body shifts into the fight-or-flight mode and pumps you up with adrenaline when you face a tense situation. Later in this chapter, I give you step-by-step instructions on how to calm those heart-racing, stomach-churning, mouth-drying, palm-sweating symptoms. Now, though, I want you to explore the other side —the psychology of stress.
Stress is your system’s response to being overtaxed by anxiety due to excess drink, sun, food, work, or even fun — too much of anything, even good stuff, stretches the boundaries. Stress is a spring that’s wound too tightly. It’s your body’s equivalent of a flashing yellow light, a Caution sign, or a Slippery when Wet warning.
When you’re just getting to know someone, your senses rally all their resources to help you evaluate whether this human being is a friend or foe. Intuition, past experiences, present observations, your ability to trust — they all come into play and keep cooking as new “cues” come your way. Until you’ve had enough positive cues to convince you that — whew! — this person is okay (he or she isn’t going to hurt me, humiliate me, or leave me holding the check), you’re going to feel a tad stressed, and the yellow light continues to flash, meaning you’re not ready to let your guard down just yet.
You can reduce your anxiety by understanding that stress is a natural and useful response to an unknown and potentially scary situation. Instead of dismissing your stress, you can leave yourself on guard and then, as you feel more confident, allow less and less of a barrier between the two of you, which is the whole point of dating. It’s okay to leave this wall of protection in place for a while, while you peek around to see what’s on the other side.

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