Modern society places increasing demands on us and therefore raises levels of anxiety and stress. These demands can be real or perceived, i.e. believing that they are real. It has been reported that life today is on average 44% more difficult than it was 30 years ago.
The aim of this article is to identify some of these areas of stress, detail what stress is and offer some practical steps you can take to reduce its debilitating effects.
You should always be aware that in the long run, stress is really debilitating, or at best, can cause terrible weakness. It can be insidious because the effects are cumulative, affecting us mentally and physically with the real possibility of pushing people to the limit.
Stress For many, the stress condition is something that has been with them for a long time and is now accepted as the norm. This is far from healthy. Many will convince themselves that they ‘thrive on stress’. Again, this is a very unhealthy and potentially dangerous attitude to have and we will see the health problems created by stress a little later. For now, you need to read this article and you will need to accept the responsibility to take action to make the changes happen. By accepting that you have a problem… you take care of it… and if you take care of it, you can control it.
Stress is an important human condition essential to our survival and part of our basic ‘fight or flight’ responses. It can be good, for example in a romantic encounter or in anticipation of a reward or getting ‘excited’ before an athletic event. However, stress can cause depression or weakness, and this is clearly something to avoid.
So, in general, what are the areas stress can come from?
The places where you live and/or work. Are they unsafe, too many people, uncomfortable, threatening, polluted, too noisy, etc.?
Family Stress and Relationships
Marriage problems, difficulty finding a supportive relationship, rebellious teenagers, caring for an elderly person or a child with special needs can cause severe stress.
Stress at Work
In our career/ money/social status driven society, our work (or lack of it) can give high levels of stress. This can be caused by dissatisfaction at work, low income, office politics, resentment or conflicts with the employer or co-workers, which can include sexual harassment.
A person’s social situation can have a huge influence as a stressor. Poverty, financial pressures, racial, age or sexual discrimination, unemployment, isolation or lack of social support can all give fertile ground for stress.
Not all stress comes from external sources, it can also be self-generated. The following give some examples:
Uncertainty or concern
Self-criticism (that critical voice that doesn’t go into your head)
Unrealistic beliefs or expectations
Unmanifested or excessive anger
Lack of assertiveness stress
Perhaps you are now realizing that stress can be developed by a combination of several things. Every little irritation that helps cause stress in other areas can have a ‘push’ effect.
What is stress and how does it affect us?
Feelings of stress come from any situation in which we feel frustrated, irritated or anxious. For many, the source of stress is unknown. Or is it really true? It may not be that simple. You’ve seen the many streets that stress can travel to catch you, and many of these are working quietly ‘in the background’.
Stress is a normal, natural state with my fear at its base.
Stress is more prevalent in women than in men as noted in Roper Starch’s 1999 study. As revealed in this report, women working with young children (under 13) appear to be particularly vulnerable.
The role of women has changed massively in the last 100 years. Today, women have many roles: wife, ‘father’, daughter, carrier, income manager, housewife, educator and bill payer. And one of the most important roles that is often forgotten: that of taking care of oneself.
Women in general, however, have an advantage over men when it comes to addressing emotional problems. Women are much more open to discussing their emotional problems, which can greatly facilitate the rehabilitation process. Men, on the other hand, are often educated with feelings that make no sense such as ‘boys don’t cry’, ‘keep a tight lip’, or ‘real men don’t show their emotions’. These feelings can cause real harm because men can have great difficulty in opening up and expressing themselves about strong emotions, which leads to stress.
There are hundreds of factors that contribute to stress, but most can be catalogued by therapists into 6 types, which underlines the fact that stress is not a simple condition.
People react differently to stress stimuli and we can categorize the reasons why an individual may be stressed. Perhaps you can identify with one of the following? Knowing where stress comes from is an excellent starting point for dealing with it. Here are some examples:
a) An ‘inherited’ tendency to stress.
We learn how to react to potentially tense situations from our parents, or other meaningful people. Are you teaching your children how to become stressed when they become adults, perhaps in the same way you were taught?
stress b) Type ‘A’ personality
Those who are in this guy have personal characteristics like:
Sensitive to perfectionism
They make a habit of forcing themselves to work hard towards unrealistic goals
Constantly aware of the weather and sensitive to haste
Quick to show anger
This group is particularly susceptible to stress-related conditions such as heart attacks because they are addicted to stress. The two key factors contributing to this propensity is the hostility and cynicism factor.
c) Having a negative view of the world.
These are people who focus on the negative aspects of situations, such as focusing on life’s nightmares or always worrying about the worst possible outcomes (glass half empty).
d) People who repress or deny important feelings such as pain, anger or sadness.
For example, imagine a situation where a man has an unsatisfactory job and his wife is very career oriented. When they are together, she always talks about the latest project, politics and actors at work, how inspired her manager is, etc. Her husband supports her and is happy that she finds fullness in her work. BUT, he feels resentful playing second fiddle to her, or maybe she has more in common with the other men she works with and may find them attractive, etc. This is a very dangerous kind of stress that can eventually manifest itself in anger.
stress at work e) need to please everyone (i.e. being unable to say NO and always saying YES).
The ‘recipients’ of this world seem to know where all the ‘donors’ are and how to handle them. If you have grown up and been brought up to be ‘nice’ and to put the needs of others before your own, you will always be stressed because you will always have a lot of internal conflict. This happens when your mouth says ‘yes’ and your heart says ‘no’. I suppose you are easily seduced by emotional blackmail.
Stress also comes from not telling people what you really mean because you don’t want them to feel bad.
The problem gets even worse if you go deeper into the situation after it happens and mentally practice all the things you should have said. Of course, you will tell them next time how you really feel (although you know you won’t). She probably grew up in an environment where she was ignored or perhaps her emotional needs were not fully met because she felt that her feelings were not important.
Learning to say no at work can also be very important. Co-workers may be happy to let go of some of your work or have you work overtime without proper pay. Friends can ‘drop’ children on themselves so they can organise their own busy lives, or they can volunteer for that job on the committee that no one else wants, etc.
If this describes you, then doing something for stress relief can give you a lot of difficulty. The reason is that you will have to do something for yourself and may have feelings of guilt in this ‘indulgence’. Don’t! You and your feelings are very, very important. Not only for you but also for the people who love you.
f) Be a Carer.
This role can be very stressful. On one hand, you have compassion and care by making a big contribution to the quality of life of those in your charge. On the other hand, you may feel resentment that your life is blocked, feel the additional pressures of your own life’s compromises, anger, perhaps even to others for lowering your responsibilities and putting everything on top of you, feelings of powerlessness or frustration as your condition worsens, etc.
g) Growing up / being educated in a religious environment with guilt.
Individuals who belong to this group may question and agonize any thought or decision they make. stress
So how does stress work?
At first glance, the stress mechanism seems strange. Why should a natural process that’s designed with our safety in mind have the potential to do so much harm? Well, let’s look at how it works in more detail.
Basic Stress Mechanism
Stress is the physiological and psychological response to events/thoughts/feelings that concern our balance and balance in some way. When faced with a threat (real or perceived), our bodies quickly enter ‘fight or flight’ mode. This involves a cascade of biological changes that prepare us for emergency actions.
The sympathetic nervous system responds by releasing hormones that include adrenaline. These hormones follow quickly through the bloodstream, preparing us for combat or a quick escape. This preparation includes: increased heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, constriction of blood vessels under the skin (to reduce blood loss in case of injury) and dilation of pupils to improve vision. Blood sugar levels also rise to give a push of energy and shorten the response time. Non-essential functions for this immediate need for survival, such as the digestive system, are suppressed. But when the threat passes or has been neutralized, the system returns to normal operating condition, that is, our hormone levels stabilize.
This survival mechanism worked well for our ancestors when facing dangers like wild animals or battles. In this modern world, however, most of the stress we feel is in response to psychological rather than physical threats.
The mind cannot differentiate between a potential animal attack or an anticipated confrontation with its boss, for example. As a caveman, if you found a saber-toothed tiger suddenly hungry, you would quickly flee (with some speed, I imagine). But if your boss is yelling at you, you can’t run away, let alone stick a spear in it! In both examples, the answer is the same, except that the stress hormones won’t dissipate so easily in the latter.
If you have too many worries, it is quite likely that you are living under stress most of the time, which makes it difficult to turn off this mechanism. Instead of dissipating, or at least decreasing as the threat disappears, your heart rate, hormone levels, and blood pressure remain high. Long-term exposure to this has a huge effect on the contribution to heart disease, cancers and obesity, as well as emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, irritability, panic attacks, and sexual dysfunction. Another product of stress is the release of cholesterol from the liver. Perhaps this explains the relationship between stress and coronary conditions, at least in part.