The stress response is different for every brain and every body. One person may look at a challenge and feel a burst of norepinephrine, the “fight” hormone. That person might seize the moment, meet the challenge, and attack the situation head-on.
Another person might sense the situation is getting out of his control and after the initial burst of norepinephrine, the “flight/anxiety” hormone epinephrine will surge higher. He might decide to flee or otherwise manage his anxiety, but not to fight back (or tackle the challenge head-on). A third person might undergo the same initial reaction, but instead of fighting or fleeing, he might give up and see the entire situation as hopeless. This person’s belief that he is not equipped to handle the task will trigger an extra release of cortisol from the adrenal glands.
What we all need is a happy medium-enough challenge to make life interesting and mentally stimulating, but not so much that the brain drowns in neuron-killing cortisol. In other words, to be stressed but not stressed out. You may never be able to totally control the outside stresses that come in (though taking a hard look at your lifestyle is a good start), but you can control how you respond to them.
One of the very best ways to improve your response to challenging situations is to work on believing that you are equal to the task and that you have the resources necessary to meet the challenge and succeed. That one single shift in attitude can make the difference between a thrilling, engaging life and a constant slog of never-ending torture-not to mention the difference between a healthy brain and a weak one.
By shoring up your self-confidence as well as your coping mechanisms, you can go out and tackle the world and whatever it throws at you.