Stress. The word brings to mind many different definitions doesn't it? It is an individual thing in many ways ? although the Canadian Stress Institute's founder, Dr. Hans Selye was the first one to define the condition. He is known as the Father of Stress. Let's say you are walking through the park. All of a sudden, out of the bush at the side of the path, a black bear appears. Fear surges through every cell of your body. Your mind and body are stressed, and together they will prepare physiologically and psychologically for the "fight or flight" stress response. The heart pumps faster and blood surges through the blood vessels, lactic acid is released into the muscles, adrenalin and other chemicals are released, breathing becomes shallow, and the bowels loosen.

Your mind is racing and desperately trying to remember what it is you do when you see a Bear. Do you make yourself bigger looking? Do you run and climb a tree (even though as a kid you were lousy at this)?. You try to yell HELP, but only a little squeak comes out. The bear looks at you and quickly lumbers off in the opposite direction. Oh sweet relief. Your body relaxes. Half an hour later you feel exhausted and you wonder why. Fear elicits the stress response. It doesn't matter if it is a bear in the park, any life threatening situation, a rude customer, accidents, challenges at home, problems at work, financial lack ? your body is programmed, when stressful stimuli are presented, to react in this manner.

You don't have to think about it. Courtesy of Mr. Bear, you have experienced the body's stress response. It leaves you feeling like your energy was stolen. So, imagine if you are someone who lives a stressful life and this response happens over and over and over, many times every day. You will be one exhausted human being. With fatigue ? the offshoot of continual stress ? comes an entire set of other problems. Depression, lack of energy, more colds/flu, weight gain or weight loss, memory loss, higher risk of heart attack/stroke, and the list goes on. But don't despair. There is a solution.

Psycho-neuro-immunology was the field of study that Hans Selye created in the 1960's. It is the study of the mind, the nervous system and the immune system and how they all work together. Simplistically put, Dr. Selye proved that your mind controls how your body responds. You may remember hearing the phrase ? you are what you think. Herein lies the key to stress and how to control it in your life. Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, "If you change the way you think about things, the things you think about, change." Confused? We all know people for whom the phrase "if it wasn't for bad luck, they'd have no luck at all" applies. The thing is, once you have experienced a whole run of non stop negativity in your life, it is very easy to slip into that space where you begin to notice all the negative things that happen every single day to most of us. You know, bumping into things, dropping things, running into grumpy or rude people, things that don't work or break.

Then you start to almost fixate on this and all the negativity starts to grow in your life Your inner voice joins in and soon you are heard to be saying things like "Yeah, that always happens to me" or "With my luck, it probably wouldn't work anyway". The key is to stop focusing on the negatives in your life ? because whatever you focus on becomes bigger in your mind. We all have upsetting things happen in ours lives. Some things take longer to deal with than others.

That's just how life is. But once we've grieved, or recuperated, or whatever it was we had to do, we can start to turn this around by becoming aware of each and every time we respond in a negative way. Deal with it and then move on. Don't stay stuck in negativity. Stop and think about how you could turn your situation around and start to re-train your brain to see the positive. Happiness is a choice ? make it yours.

Carole Fawcett is a Stress Management expert and laughter therapist who lives in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Check out her website at

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