Stress can be defined in many different ways. For example, stress can be defined as the excitement, feeling of anxiety and/ or physical tension that occur when demands placed on and individual exceeds his or her ability to cope. This definition has evolved from the physical, biological, and modern society’s definition of stress. The physical definition is: exposure to external physical pressure where an object such as brittle metal will deform and eventually break; the biological definition is: the body’s reaction to disruptive external forces like heat, altitude, overload, or lack of sleep; and modern society’s definition is: vulnerability to multiple work demands, time pressures and psychosocial conflicts inherent in today’s world (“reduction” pg. 2). However, the simple definition for stress is: the uncomfortable gap between a.) How we would like our life to be and b.) How it actually is.
Some of the causes that we deal with everyday are from anxiety, fear, frustration, depression, anger, and helplessness (“stress” pg.1), along with job related stress, school, finances, family, etc. However, there are different types of stress: Eustress (positive stress), Distress (negative stress), overload (trying to do too much in too little time), arousal (physical and/or emotional excitement), physical stress (exercise, sport, hard physical labor, etc.), environmental stress (exposure to a change of altitude, climate, or pollution), and emotional stress (cognitive and behavioral causes and outcomes). Even though we mostly deal with distress, stress is often a positive phenomenon. Stress is what will take you out of the path of a charging bull or make you hurry to meet a deadline. The “adrenaline rush”, which energizes you to get the job done, is what some people say they enjoy about stress (“reduction” pg.3).
However, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and constant stress can have long-term consequences for our physical and mental health. When challenged, the body undergoes a progressive series of responses that are first triggered by an external stimulus termed the stressor. The more prolonged and accelerating reactions produce an intense and severe disruption called strain. All of this moves the body away from homeostasis, the maintenance of equilibrium of the internal body functions in response to external changes. This stress cycle is known as the “Stress Response” and it has four main components:
1. Stressor: the external threat, challenge, task or internal thought, perception or worry that acts as a stimulus or provocation disrupting homeostasis.
2. Strain: the internal struggle to regain homeostasis & to overcome the effects of a stressor (i.e. fatigue, insomnia).
3. Stress reaction: an emotional and/or a physical disruption in normal functioning – nervous, anxious, irritable and discouraged, which is associated with deregulated body systems (i.e. circulation, digestion, skeletal, muscular, and excretory).
4. Stress coping: the process of dealing with the stress reaction by one of many different methods ranging from action steps in problem solving to reframing interpretations of events and circumstances (“reduction” pg.2).
When in distress a body becomes fragmented and out of balance. Even if it is not real trauma being experienced, the body will physically and emotionally enter the same state as if experiencing the exact trauma.
Prolonged stress related illnesses such as: repetitive stress disorder (i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, or chronic neck pain), fatigue, immune disorder, headaches, high blood pressure, heartburn, indigestion, ulcers, addictive coping mechanisms (i.e. alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, etc.), and/ or depression, can lead to chronic illnesses and/or diseases (“effects” pg. 1).
Now, after hearing all this, you are probably wondering “How can I manage or reduce the amount of stress that I have?” One way to manage stress is though being in control. Be very organized and efficient, take initiative for action when it is appropriate, and get out of the situation if you need to (say “No” to unnecessary extra activities). Another way to manage stress is through stress reduction. Eliminate, avoid, or make necessary changes to prevent stress. Learn from a stressful experience and make adjustments to minimize reoccurrence. Finally, there’s stress relief. There are three types of stress relief. 1. Pseudo relief: alcohol, drugs, and other modes of escape for a short period (temporary form of denial), 2. Natural relief: Exercise acts as short term stress relievers; relaxing experiences, recreation and entertainment (get a massage, or play a game), and 3. Skillful relief: assertiveness, time management and functional relaxation training (organization or meditation) (“reduction” pg.1). These techniques can help you manage or reduce stress by taking your mind off of the stressful situations and releasing tension.
Now that I have told you what stress is, what some of the causes, types, and effects of stress are, and how you can manage and/or reduce the amount of stress that you have, I hope you incorporate these stress reducing techniques into your everyday life and benefit from them.