Stress is a choice

Anny Chih photo

By Anny Chih, 24 hours Vancouver




Nearly eight in 10 Canadians experience excessive or uncomfortable levels of stress from various sources and this number increases to nine in 10 among Canadians 18 to 24, according to the 2013 Sun Life Canadian Health Index Report. In the grand scheme of things though, Canada is still ranked as one of the least stressed countries in the world according to Bloomberg's Most Stressed-Out: Countries ranking based on parameters such as homicide, corruption, and unemployment. In other words, though many things may be stressful, Canadians are still better off than most people and it can be helpful to remember that stress is common and contagious, but it's also a choice.

Stress is so common that it can be found in all areas of life. The Sun Life Canadian Health Index Report listed 16 common sources of stress, which range from daily commutes to personal relationships. Most people have displayed symptoms of stress caused by one thing such as a daily commute while doing something else such as spending time with a friend. This carry-over effect of stress means that while a co-worker may snap at you unexpectedly at work, there's a good chance that it has nothing to do with you in particular so there's no sense in taking it personally.

It can be difficult not to take offense when someone takes out their stress on you, especially since stress is contagious. A study published in Psychological Science in January 2014 by Sara F. Waters, Tessa V. West, and Wendy Berry Mendes, found that babies pick up on their mother's stress within minutes of contact and display corresponding physiological changes as a result. This and other similar studies suggest that people may be wired to share the stress of those close to us, so avoiding people who are easily stressed can make your own life more peaceful.

Taking action to change an environment or personal reactions to undesirable situations is the most anyone can do to mitigate stress. If someone is rude to you for reasons outside of your control, they may be at fault. But if you allow their actions to continue without saying anything or become unhappy as a result of their behaviour, the cause of your stress is you.​

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