Let’s Talk About Stress
The family of today faces a more difficult and / or stressful life compared to our parents and grandparents. The following is a brief discussion concerning STRESS.
What is Stress?
A simple definition is that stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create poor or negative feelings. Stress will help or hinder us, depending on how we react to it. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective.
As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. With the death of a loved one, birth of a child, job promotion, or a new intimate relationship, we experience stress as we readjust our lives. When adjusting to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it.
How Can I Eliminate Stress From My Life?
So-called positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life, and we all are under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Insufficient stress acts as a depressant and may leave us feeling bored or dejected; on the other hand, excessive stress may leave us feeling “tied up in knots.” What we need to do is find the optimal level of stress to individually motivate, but not overwhelm, each of us.
How Can I Tell What Is Optimal Stress For Me?
There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all people. We are all individual creatures with unique requirements. As such, what is distressing to one may be a joke to another. And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing, we are likely to differ in our physiological response to it. For instance, the person who loves to arbitrate disputes, moving from job site to job site, would be stressed in a stable and routine job, whereas the person who thrives under stable conditions would very likely be stressed on a job where duties were highly varied and mobile.
Throughout history, mankind has had periodic episodes of illness which have decimated the population. The Bubonic Plague ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages. Syphilis killed one in four Europeans when it was introduced to Europe in the 1500’s. Every other Hawaiian was killed by measles in the 1700’s. Meanwhile, North American Indians were slain by smallpox and other imported diseases.
Today, it is reported that one in ten North Americans are falling victim to OVERSTRESS. Those who are becoming chemically dependent are walking a fatal path. Others “drop out” at an early age, joining the ranks of society’s “marginal survivors”.
TO YOUR BODY, STRESS IS SYNONYMOUS WITH CHANGE. Anything that causes a change in your life causes stress. It doesn’t matter if it is “good” change, or “bad” change, they are both stress. When you find your dream house and get ready to move, that is stress. If you break your leg, that is stress. Good or bad, if it is a CHANGE in your life, it is stress as far as your body is concerned.
Even IMAGINED CHANGE is stressful. (We call it “worrying”.) If you fear that you will not have enough money to pay your mortgage or rent, that is stress. If you worry that you may get fired, that is stress. If you think that you may receive a promotion at work, that is also stress (even though this would be a good change). Whether the event is good or bad, imagining changes in your life is stressful.
Anything that causes CHANGE IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE is stressful. Anything that causes CHANGE IN YOUR BODY HEALTH is stressful. IMAGINED CHANGES are just as stressful as real changes.
The cost of OVERSTRESS to North American society is immense. Some reports suggest the cost to be as much as $300 Billion per year. Our society loses through lost productivity, medical care, job accidents, and traffic fatalities.
Certainly, we live in a society whose hallmark is rapid change. Our broader definition of stress tells us that this rapid change means high stress levels. Most of the human experience has not prepared us to handle the demands of life in the 21st Century. And that is why we place such a value on our stress management programs. Once we have helped our clients to deal with their (over)stress we can help them to deal with their other problems.
Employee Assistance Program providers work with people to help them find a solution to their problems – all of which are stress-related or provoked by stress. Generalized information from one EAP provider shows that more than 60% of the problems they deal with fall into 5 general categories, as follows:
The remaining 11 categories generally breakdown as follows:
Excerpt from my book How to Control Stress