What is Stress?

by rodney on April 21, 2014

what is stressOne thing that a number of my current clients have in common is that they are all under stress.  That’s hardly surprising. Stress is something that we all experience many times during our lives. The majority of people constantly live with stress every day.

So much has been said about stress during the last 20 years that it has become one of those words that have lost its impact. So much so that when we hear that someone or ourselves are stressed, we brush it off. We think “Yeah, whatever” and ignore it.

Ignoring stress can be dangerous. But, before we get into that, we need to ask ourselves what is stress, how do we get it and what are the signs of stress.

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension that is the result of adverse or demanding circumstances. People often describe stress as feeling overloaded, wound up, tense and worried. It is a natural human response that can have benefits.  It can help to increase our energy and alertness.  This was helpful back in the caveman days when we were trying to avoid and out run dinosaurs, however today environment is a lot different.

What causes stress does depend on how we respond to stress triggers. What causes stress in one person may not cause stress in someone else.  Just remember that anything that puts high demands on you or forces you to adjust can cause stress.  Some common causes of stress include major life changes, financial problems, having children and /or family demands, work and/or school  commitments, being too busy, relationship difficulties, chronic worry, pessimism, negative self-talk, having unrealistic expectations, perfectionism, rigid thinking, lack of flexibility and an all or nothing attitude, to name a few.

Knowing if you are experiencing stress takes self-awareness. Self-awareness is a conscious knowledge of one’s own thoughts, feelings and character.  Self-awareness is a major part of stress management.  Once you recognise the signs of stress, then you can take deliberate action to de-stress. Some of the most common signs of stress include memory problems, poor judgement, negative thoughts, irritability or a short temper, moodiness, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, depression or loneliness, aches and pains, nausea, chest pains, irregular heartbeat, eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, procrastinating, nervous habits and self-medicating such as using alcohol, drugs or even food to help you cope.

In the book “The Art of War” Sun Tzu insisted that you must know your enemy. The more you know about what stress is, what causes it and knowing the signs the better equipped you are to winning the war against stress.  If you are struggling to cope with stress, consider seeking professional counselling.

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