Stress: Understanding & Managing It
There are times in our lives when we all experience some degree of stress that may feel overwhelming. As defined by Hans Selye in 1926: “stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand placed upon it,” in any combination of physical, mental, emotional, or environmental.
There are certain amounts of stress that can be beneficial, and even positive. The “right” amount of stress can keep us alert and focused, giving us the ability to have a better understanding of our strengths and resilience to meet challenges.
Often times, however, stress comes to our attention when there is an overwhelming sense of strain and pressure. Symptoms can include:
- Constant worrying
- Memory problems
- Lack of concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Lacking energy
- Seeing only the negative
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Irritability or short temper
- Agitation, inability to relax
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sense of loneliness and isolation
- Problems sleeping
- Lowered immune system
The way in which we individually manage stress is unique to each of us, just as what creates stress for each of us can be unique. In other words: what may cause stress for me, may not be a cause of stress for another person. Understanding what creates stress for you can be valuable in managing it, and potentially using stress to your advantage.
Chronic stress can have long-term effects on your physical health including a compromised immune system which may leave you more susceptible to illness, as well increasing sensitivity to anxiety and depression.
It may be beneficial to seek support if you are experiencing overwhelming stress, and/or noticing that you are coping by temporary measures including withdrawing, using substances, procrastinating, and external distractions.
While there are many methods of managing and understanding your stress, support can come from your network of family and friends, or perhaps in the form of an organized group of others who are experiencing similar challenges with stress and stressors.
Therapy can also be an effective source of support, where you can work together with a knowledgeable therapist who can assist you in understanding the physical, environmental, interpersonal, and psychological sources of your stress. Once you can have a better understanding of the sources of your stress, you can then find ways to reduce your level of stress, and develop strategies to manage your experiences of stress.