STRONGER TOGETHER: How changing your perception can reduce stress

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"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on our perception of stress and urgency.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Perception is one of the many simple complexities that can influence our emotional response to a task, situation, or circumstance.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

We might notice our perception of stress or urgency becomes elevated due to external factors, usually things happening to us that we can’t control or avoid. These may be work deadlines, social activities or family responsibilities. What seems like an endless to-do list can evoke a heightened sense of stress.

Currently, for me, it’s yellow post-it notes. I’m reaching for them whenever I want to jot down something I need to do, have an idea to research, etc - you get the gist. Anything and everything lands on a sticky note, and by the end of the week, I’m swimming in a sea of them!!

This ocean of notes sends a wave of stress over me, I feel like I’ve got a mountain of work to do and can start to feel overwhelmed.

But we can reframe this perception into what is real. For sticky notes, I use the 4-D’s (do it, delete it, delegate it, or defer it) at the end of the week to determine ‘what is’ - regaining a sense of reality and control. My goal is to compile one list of priorities that guide my focus for the following week.

While sometimes our stress is real and we need to respond immediately; sometimes, it’s from external factors as a matter of perception. And we have the power to change our perception.

When familiar feelings of stress and urgency start to rise, pause, and take notice of what you are experiencing. Perhaps ask yourself ‘what else could be true?’

My sticky notes could be a sign I’ve had lots of inspirational thoughts, or I’ve had some great conversations with people who’ve inspired me to note something down.

They don’t necessarily contain things I need to do.

Giving yourself space to get clarity and shift your perception can reduce the impact on your emotional state and start to reduce the levels of stress you’re experiencing.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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