Although the word “stress” has many meanings, the most common type of stress that comes to mind when we hear the term is a feeling of negative feeling as a result of external pressure or events. Although we may understand that stress is a natural response when faced with certain situations, it is also important to note 1.) Not all stress is bad stress, 2.) There is more than one kind of stress and 3.) When your stress needs to be dealt with for your health.
I’m no stranger to stress of many types as described in this article and it’s no surprise that all people face individual forms of stress. One of my associates mentioned to me just the other day that there are times where it feels like stress seems to hang on to all activities she participates in, even if they are not stressful on their own. It is almost as though stress starts and just refuses to go away. When this happens, she knows it is time to step back and take care of it because it’s lasting too long.
What is stress? Stress is a normal response based on our survival instinct referred to as the fight or flight response. As part of evolution it is a way where humans and animals can determine danger and act appropriately to survive. However, in today’s society it is now triggered in situations that both contain and do not contain danger.
When is stress “good” or “bad”? There are times where stress is good. Generally, these are times of excitement, also known as eustress and can be valuable as a form of motivation. Healthline’s Sara Lindberg gives an outline of eustress here for those that are interested. However, this article is looking at the forms of bad stress, its causes, identification and what to do about it to help keep yourself from some of the negative effects of bad stress or distress.
The stress we often associate with distress or the negative stress include acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress where:
• Acute Stress = is a reaction to an event or mini-crisis.
• Episodic Acute Stress = a regular occurrence of acute stress having a negative effect on our mental and physical health.
• Chronic Stress = Constant stress originating from a previous trauma that remains throughout everyday life.
For more information on the three types of stress Psychology Today ‘s, Temma Ehrenfeld describes these with examples and the effect they can have over time.
So, what causes distress and what can it look like? The cause of distress can vary for everyone based on our personal situations, events and family dynamics. However, in general the causes of distress tend to come from relationship and family issues, financial issues, our environments, trauma, and from medical reasons and can show itself through both mental and physical symptoms. Some of which may include, but are not limited to:
• Problems concentrating and remembering;
• Having a feeling of hopelessness, unhappiness and agitation;
• Headaches, upset digestive system, fatigue
• Nervous habits and social withdrawal.
Tips for the Management of Stress: If distress is starting to show up, why not start taking care of yourself to manage it sooner rather than later. The management of stress may not be a one size fits all approach and although there are several varying helpful tips online and within your community, it is important to determine what is going to work for you. Therefore, if you don’t succeed with one method, keep trying.
Some of the common methods for the management of stress may include:
1. Take a step back, assess how you are feeling and accept that it may be time to start the process of seeking help and managing stress.
2. Try to understand why the distress is there. Is there something missing or needed? Is there something that has been added to your life that you may be having difficulty adapting to.
3. Take care of yourself. If there are things that make you feel better, take the time do those things. Even if you are busy, there needs to be time for yourself.
4. Accept that you may need some outside help when taking care of yourself just isn’t helping.
5. Keep trying. If one method hasn’t worked, it doesn’t mean that is all that can be done.
The following links also provide some ways to deal with stress that may be useful:
• Psychology Today on ways to deal with stress.
• Forbes Magazine on calming a distressed mind.
• Canadian Mental Health Association on understanding and finding help
We all go through stress and you are not alone. Listen to your gut feeling telling you when it’s time to check into it like our associate did. The Canadian Mental Health Association has a wonderful section on information related to stress with resources to help near the end of the article.
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