As I mentioned in my previous post, there are 4 factors that can trigger the stress response in us, and in this article, we will briefly discuss the first and most common trigger : our perception (thoughts).

How we perceive situations, events or circumstances, will play a massive role in whether we will create stress for ourselves at any given point in time.  For example, the type of response to an email we have just received from a coworker heavily criticising our work in a project, will come down to how our neural network is configured in our brain.

When it comes to perception, if you are on the “negative” side of the sliding scale, that email might immediately trigger the fight or flight (stress) response. You might become angry or withdrawn, and your written words will capture these emotions.  So rather than focusing on solving the issue, strong emotions might cloud your thinking, getting you caught up in an emotional whirlwind that will take you further and further way from a practical solution.  More often than not, you will carry over this stressful state of mind throughout the rest of the day.

If you happen to be on the more positive side of the perception scale, that same critical email might present itself as an opportunity to reassess your contribution to the project.  Rather than giving in to the impulse of defending yourself, by not triggering the stress response you might approach the situation at a different angle, showing your colleagues how open-minded, receptive, resilient and effective you can be in testing times. Your creativity and capacity to adapt will shine through, opening up a world of possibilities. Top leaders and top performs demonstrate these qualities consistently, by being immune to criticism and responsive to feedback.

So how can we shift our perception away from the stress response and closer to a more creative, smart and evolutionary state of awareness? Rearranging the neural network in our brain holds the key to this transformation.  Although changing the structure of our brain might seem like a daunting feat, recent research on neuroplasticity is conclusive about how simple it is to modify our brain’s neural network given how remarkably malleable our brain is, regardless of our age.

Simply by engaging in the practice of silent meditation for 15 minutes twice a day, sleeping 7.5 to 8.5 hours every night, exercising vigorously for 30 minutes 3 times a week and having healthy relationships in our lives, will set us on the path to completely transform and change the structure of our brains. These simple lifestyle adjustments will serve as the foundation to gradually change our perception for the better and will helps us to prevent triggering the stress response unnecessarily.

Incorporating these lifestyle adjustments in our lifestyle will drastically improve how we perceive situations in our professional and personal lives. Our minds will be set up to turn “negative” situations into opportunities and these practices will also enable us to improve our interpersonal relationships, boost our confidence, improve our mood and help us become more capable professionals.