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Last Page Update 03.25.2019

Providing the Stress Management Support Your Deserve

Everyone has to deal with difficult people, whether they are argumentative, abusive, stubborn, or combative. The question is: how can you assert your rights without creating an unnecessary incident?

In most cases, angry people are screaming to be heard. They want to be valued, loved, and listened to. They want to feel important, but aren't able to express themselves constructively. With the right attitude, it's possible to get past these insecurities and reach an understanding. In this segment, we offer a range of approaches and tools to better assist you in managing your daily stress. Thank you for visiting this stress management segment.

The Key Word in Stress is:
Perception, Perception, and More Perception
By Dr. Ashraf Girgis N.D.

Christmas Decorations

I wrote this article about perception and stress for my book Holistic Approach to Perception published at the end of 2017. Here is an updated version. 

 There is no doubt that perception and stress are intertwined. It is therefore very important to understand that by changing our perception, we can change how we feel about issues that are causing us stress.

 But, what really is perception? The dictionary definition of perception is:

“the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses”; "the normal limits to human perception"; “the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses”; or "the perception of pain."


In a study published in the September 2012 edition of the Journal of Psychology in 2012, scientists looked at data obtained from the 1998-2006 National Health Surveys. Psychological measures were used to determine the impact of stress on mortality rate. Results indicated that 33.7% of 186 million American adults described their lives as “high stress.” High stress was affecting their health as result. Both the group that perceived high stress in their lives and the group who believed stress impacted their health had an increased premature mortality rate of 43%. Imagine – a 43% increase in mortality rate!

The Scientists (Keller et al.) concluded: “…High amounts of stress and the perception that stress impacts health are each associated with poor health and mental health. Individuals who perceived that stress affects their health and reported a large amount of stress had an increased risk of premature death.”

 I remember standing inside a glass elevator at a fancy hotel. I have a phobia of heights. As the elevator was going higher and higher, I could feel my hands getting slightly moist, and my heartbeat speeding up. But instead of giving into my usual height phobia, I started positive self-talk: telling myself that there is no reason for my fear. The elevator was functioning perfectly and I could enjoy the beautiful surroundings. After a few moments, my fear of the height seemed lessened, and my heart slowed down. By the time I started to enjoy the ride, the elevator opened and I got out with a smile still on my face. Interestingly, as soon as I entered the lobby, the television news was showing a 90-year-old Japanese woman sky-diving for her birthday, a triumphant look on her face. 




My body responded to my self-talk almost immediately, as I have experience with meditation and my body is trained to listen to my verbal commends perhaps faster than others. But for everybody, our bodies respond to what is going on in our minds, whether consciously or subconsciously. My panicking in a safe elevator while surrounded by beautiful scenery was causing my levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol to

skyrocket. A 90-year-old person was enjoying the height and making her body function fantastically by releasing hormones such as endorphins and dopamine, hormones which are responsible for joy and happiness!

 It is not easy to control our phobias or how we perceive the issues that cause us stress, but it is nonetheless absolutely possible. This picture below is another way of UNDERSTANDING how we can all be looking at the same picture or situation yet still be having different PERCEPTIONS.  



Let’s look into a simplified biology of stress to see what happens when we are under stress. The body is hardwired to take care of itself. When we perceive something to be a possible danger to us, our immediate response is autonomic. The autonomic nervous system starts releasing catecholamine systematically. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are released by the sympathetic nervous system to prepare the body for physical combat or running away from danger, as was done in prehistoric times. In other words, the body responds to a situation it perceives as dangerous in the same old-fashioned ways of our prehistoric ancestors; it reacts as if it is running away from a lion, a fire, etc. The body starts pumping blood faster, increasing blood pressure to bring all the oxygen required for our muscles to work hard in defending us against the perceived threat, or stressor. At the same time, our oxygen consumption is increased to accommodate and provide more oxygen wherever the body needs it; this is why we breathe at a faster rate when stressed. Our pupils become dilated so we can better see dangerous situations, and our digestive systems slow down, because energy and fuel is diverted to the places most needed to combat stress. Glucose is released from the liver to help provide this extra energy. All of these things take place within a few seconds of being in the presence of what is subconsciously considered a stressor. However, this hormonal impact is very short. It only lasts few moments, but because its impact is systemic, it can be felt systemically. 


Now, let us return to the previous elevator example. Although my body recognized the height as a stressor due to my subconscious memory banks, my conscious mind immediately took over and tried to provide reason through cognitive self-talk. I told myself I was in a safe environment and the elevator was functioning well; even though I was scared, there was no logical danger. I kept my focus on the beauty of the surrounding area and the view that it offered. When I acknowledged my fear and changed my cognitive perception of the situation, my body responded immediately, and the autonomic response to stress was aborted. Instead, my body started to release parasympathetic hormones to return the body to the state of homeostasis (state of balance in the body).

Men Talking to Each Other     




Now imagine if I had not talked myself out of it and had instead allowed myself to continue feeling scared. The emotional center of the brain is located in the midlevel

brain and called the limbic system. It is made up of the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, and pituitary gland. In the elevator, my limbic system would have continued in a hyper-alert stage. Later on that day, I happened to be giving a talk, followed by a long drive back home in D.C. traffic – two other stressful situations. All these daily stressors would have had an accumulated impact on my body. Giving my talk and driving through traffic, my hypothalamus would have received another signal to begin a cascade of hormonal release to reinforce the sympathetic drive that had already taken place on the elevator. My body would have gone into survival mode, the same way that our ancestor’s bodies functioned thousands of years ago. 

 In other words, stress is a mechanism designed to protect us. But the neocortical part of the brain is the most sophisticated section, responsible for reading all the data and deciding whether it is a threat or not. This is the part of the brain that uses logic and reason to overcome emotional response. It is the neocortical part of the brain which helped me return to a normal state of balance through logic and reason. This is the same part of the brain that is responsible for all executive functions, such as decision-making, organizational skills, creativity, and intuition. It allowed me to recognize my fear, based entirely on subconscious perceptions, as irrational. By changing my perception of the situation, I was able to take control of my body’s physiological response. Instead of continuing to be stressed and having a torrent of hormones released, I was able to put a stop to it.

 The normal ratio of epinephrine to norepinephrine is 80:20. During acute phases of stress, however, it goes up to 300/80. Can you imagine the power these hormones could unleash? Additionally, even once the catecholamine levels return to normal (this can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes), other hormonal affects such as that of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone, vasopressin, thyroxin hormones) can last much longer – anywhere from a few minutes to days or weeks. Imagine, then, the impact of continuous stress on your body.


 That is why it is imperative to follow these few steps for reducing your stress levels:

 1.      Identify.

Identify what issues have led to your chronic, toxic stress.

2.     Evaluate the situation.

Ask yourself if it is possible to get rid of this daily surge of chemicals. If you can change your job, divorce, or move closer to your work, instead of enduring daily stresses resulting from specific sources, why wouldn’t you? In other words, can you eliminate the stressor? If the answer is yes, then do it. Unfortunately, for most of us, it is not easy to change our jobs, divorce, or do anything to remove the stressor from our lives. 

3. Find ways of dealing with the situation.

After going through the process of identification and evaluation of the stressor, if you realize it is impossible to change, then it is time to look at it in a

different way. By changing our perception of the situation, we can restructure our entire view of it and allow ourselves to see the “glass half-full.” Of course, it cannot happen overnight, but it can happen if you keep working on your specific situation.

Meanwhile, make sure you do everything necessary to maintain a healthy

mind and body in order to increase your threshold for handling stressful situations. In this manner, you can gain the ability to reduce or solve your chronic and toxic stress.

 4.     Use stress management skills.

While changing your perception, identifying the stressor, and trying to resolve it are all important components of dealing with daily stress, it is equally if not more important to provide your body with the tools it needs to withstand stress. We can do this with exercise, healthy food, good sleep, and other measures, as I explain in my book Holistic Approach To Stress.

 We must always keep in mind that stress is, to some degree, normal, and can even add spice to life. Without small stresses, our lives might be boring. The right perception in looking at a stressor can give us energy to overcome the challenge.


Thanks for visiting For questions, please call our office at (616)-777-0608 and leave a message.Wish you the best in managing your stress. By working in changing your perception.  Feel free to follow us on twitter for our latest postings.

 Ashraf Girgis N.D.


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