Stress is an experience felt by all at some point in their lives and can certainly be more frequent for some individuals than others. Everyone is impacted by stress differently, which makes it more complex to define. Hans Selye in 1936, defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”1. Stress can be caused by biological, psychological, and/or social factors. Biological factors refer to how your body responds to stress. The mind’s ability to manage and process emotions accompanying stressful situations creates psychological factors. Social factors are related to things outside of your mind and body that cause stress such as environment, finances, safety, loss, which is notable as in 2017 the American Institute of Stress names the “future of our nation, money, work, political climate and violence/crime” as the most common sources of stress 2.
Knowing the signs of stress and the impact it can have on you is critical to your health.
"Stress is bound to occur in life and can be managed with practice. You can control your thoughts and determine the extent that external and internal factors weigh on you."
-Krystle Herbert, LMFT, PsyD
Two ways to increase stress awareness
1. Learn about stress. There are three primary types of stress:
• Acute stress is short-term and is generally linked to a stressful event that surfaces and goes away quickly.
• Episodic stress is frequent stress that doesn’t last as it comes and goes.
• Chronic stress is nonstop over a long period of time.
Chronic, long-lasting, high-stress levels can be hazardous to your wellness. It can cause mental health problems, and for some, lead to substance misuse, and physical health issues.
2. Identify what stress feels like for you. You are the only person that can determine what is stressful to you. Stress triggers depend on things that cause you unrest, frustration, or nervousness. It is important to ask yourself “What causes me stress?” To answer this question:
• Pay attention to signs your body shows you. Physical responses can include sleeplessness, fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, chest pain, and muscle tensions. Linking these physical responses to stressful events can assist you in learning more about yourself.
• Connect with how you feel. Stress is usually associated with experiencing negative feelings that impact one’s attitude. Overwhelmed, agitated, restless, anxious, and continuously worried are a few effects on the mood when stress is present.
Document circumstances, worries, or challenges that create your internal and external stress responses. Keeping track of this will increase your ability to rapidly take action to reduce and move away from stressors. Talking, relaxation techniques, building resilience, time management, and lifestyle changes are key elements to relieving stress.
Stress is bound to occur in life and can be managed with practice. You can control your thoughts and determine what external and internal factors weigh on you. Remember, you do not have to handle stress on your own, seek professional support for techniques that can assist you in your journey.