An Introduction to Stress
“Don’t stress over it.”
Remember hearing that?
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU HAVE STRESS?
A doctor isn’t going to order a blood test, or any other test for that matter, that will be able to determine if you have stress.
The tests he might order will only determine if you are experiencing any number of maladies that CAN be related to being over stressed. Hives? Is it stress or did you come in contact with something you are, or could be, allergic to. Weight gain or weight loss? Is it stress or are you on a new medication where weight changes are a side effect, or have you had to become more sedentary because of surgery or injury?
HOW DO WE DEVELOP STRESS?
Stress. You may have first experienced it as a toddler.
Don’t believe me.
Watch a toddler stack blocks that happen to topple. Watch a toddler working on a puzzle or a shape sorter when the piece just won’t fit. Watch. Problem solving comes first as the toddler examines the piece and turns it around, but if that doesn’t work, then the temper tantrum surfaces. Sooner or later, a toddler learns to control the temper tantrums because it doesn’t solve the problem and it doesn’t get the desired help from the adult world.
Speed ahead to the beginning of your schooling. Mom or Dad or another significant parent figure brought you to school for your first day and LEFT YOU THERE! Ugh! For some, it children it is a welcome experience, for others it creates extreme stress which we, as adults, see as clinginess and screams. Did you go willingly into the new experience or did you have to be pried from the legs or neck of the adult?
And we continue to experience stress from there:
Stress from tests.
Stress from trying to fit in.
Stress from home.
Stress from deadlines.
Stress from … you name it.
Stress is a factor in everyone’s life, but the important thing is how you face it and how you deal with it.
Stress is the word many of us use to lump together the wide variety of physical and mental symptoms we encounter when faced with new experiences, important life issues, or important decisions.
However, Amy Marturana gives stress and anxiety separate definitions in her article for Self magazine titled, “How to Know If You’re Stressed Out or Suffering From Anxiety.”
“Think of stress more as a physiological manifestation of what you perceive as an overwhelming threat. Anxiety refers more to those mental thoughts and feelings of worry, apprehension, and even doom, clouding your brain. It can oftentimes be a byproduct of stress.”
Since most of us use “stress” and “anxiety” synonymously, I prefer to simplify it by just calling it stress. This gives me stress, or that gives me stress. Or just “Stop it. You are getting on my last nerve.”
Stress affects your life both physically and mentally, and sometimes spiritually.
Think about the last time you were experiencing stress.
Could you feel your heart racing?
Did you toss and turn all night instead of sleeping soundly?
Did you eat more, or less?
Could you only focus on the thing that was causing you stress?
How about this as an example: Last month you had had a couple of unexpected bills that had to be paid which left your bank account teetering on the brink of $0.00. The bills for this month come in as usual; they don’t know or care about your financial difficulties. They are just pieces of paper that tell you what you know.
Do you toss and turn when the first bills for the new month arrive?
Do your thoughts focus constantly on where you could come up with some extra money, or whether you should get a second job, but then you would have to invest in child care?
Do you eat absentmindedly, hand-to-mouth, whatever is in the cupboards or in the fridge?
When you open the electric bill, can you feel your heart race?
Stress preys on everyone – it messes with our head; it messes with our body; and it messes with our spirituality.
What causes one person stress, another person might handle with ease.
Think about it.
Have you ever talked to someone about something that is bothering you out and their response is “That’s nothing to worry about.” You know that the person is dealing with the same issues you are BUT that person seems so calm.
Since we are all unique individuals, we don’t all react the same.
This stems back to how you learned to deal with the things that caused you stress.
You must learn to recognize what is causing you stress, how that stress is affecting you, and come up with a plan to reduce your stress. Some things we can’t avoid: job and workplace, paying bills, and raising our children. Some things we have to work through: a parent’s failing health, a child’s chronic health issues, the loss of a job, children with special needs or children who need extra help, and the list goes on.
That’s what April, National Stress Awareness Month, is all about: learning about stress, evaluating your stress, and learning coping techniques to help you deal with stress.
I am not a medical doctor, nor am I a psychologist, but I am a researcher and an experiencer of STRESS. Join me for the next three Tuesdays when I share with you information about stress and how to evaluate your stress levels, and look for the posts on Thursdays when I present you with coping techniques to help deal with stress.
Thanks for reading.