Stress is a feeling we all know too well. Defined by emotional and mental strain, it’s our response to the challenges/demands of life. A taxing emotion identified by mental tension and intense anxiety. I think it’s fair to say its familiarity has surfaced more so in our present-day world with all the curveballs recently thrown. We got a global game of dodgeball going on. If it’s not the pandemic, it’s the ever-pressing climate crisis or world hunger that gnaws at the back of our minds. The current state of our world provides an endless list of stresses. Stress is everywhere. In each hospital ward, broken home, voting poll, school corridor, or work office stress exists.
So why aren’t we talking about it enough?
Superficial conversations mask our vulnerabilities and fill the silence. “How are you?” “I’m fine,” mean-while you’re barely coping, rather than engaging in meaningful conversation, we believe the whole world is stressed, so a blanket response fits. We view our stress as ‘trivial,’ when globally, we’re bleeding.
Though stress is a natural feeling and a normal part of life, in recent times, I feel that normalcy has been replaced by comfort. People have become used to being stressed. It’s expected, we are supposed to feel this way. A growing ‘comfort’ that this is the reality of our world, constantly wired by stress. We are content with the idea that ‘stress is in numbers,’ so much so that in the norm of it, we have lost sight of prioritizing and treating our stress.
Even I found comfort in the norm.
I never noticed how much I stressed until I had a phone call with my older brother. His nonchalant way of life is something I should have become more personally invested in before our conversation. But all in good time.
In just four words, “Stress will kill you,” this phone call hit different. I couldn’t shake the echo of his voice after he uttered those words. I realized it moved me because it was true. True to me and my nature at the time. It was at that moment I shifted my thinking. I became accustomed to feeling stressed. Times I used it to fuel me and others- it paralyzed me – all while I was in control. But never again.
You would think something so common and felt by so many would be easy to understand, but instead, it’s a matter of great complexity.
Stress is subjective. Its severity and the way it affects one are only felt by the individual experiencing it. What may stress you may not affect the next person. Take a flight delay situation. One might feel frustrated and consumed with stress, allowing their mood to alter. Whereas the next passenger may view it as a sign, there is a reason for my delay. They proceed to hit the airport bar during the wait. Likewise, individuals may react differently to being late during a traffic jam. One might beat themselves up and become infuriated as their patience wears thin. But the car next door has understood they have no control over the situation. They choose to load their favorite playlist and belt out a much-needed karaoke sesh.
You have options.
Stress can be silent. A quiet take over that cripples within. We are unaware of its build-up and fail to see the signs as we associate the feeling with irritable outward reactions. Oblivious to our numbness of each situation by underreacting. We internalize our stress and suppress the feeling pushing it down so that it never reaches the surface. This type of stress can be dangerous because we allow ‘the silence’ to chip away at our physical and mental health. Much like quiet stress, many suffer from chronic stress, which is ongoing and prolonged. This type of stress is long-term and can lead to serious health issues if it goes unchecked. People suffering from chronic stress often face symptoms that include chest pain, constant nervousness, and irritability. Those affected struggle through the everyday pressures of life, owing the source of their stress to multiple causes.
Acute stress is an immediate and intense reaction that sticks around for a short-term basis. The symptoms are short-lived as a single unexpected event usually triggers this stress. It is momentary, like the stress you feel when you receive criticism from your boss or argue with your spouse.
Not all stress is bad.
Eustress is a positive form of stress. Unlike most stress that causes detriment to your health, eustress benefits your performance and well-being. It challenges and motivates you to do better, like a promotion at work or stepping outside your comfort zone and taking on a new skill.
Degree of stress.
Identifying stress can be difficult as it may not come from an obvious source but rather a combination of small daily stresses.
Stressors can vary from minor to major, both possessing the power to wreak havoc and disturb our peace. Minor stressors are our day-to-day inconveniences like misplacing your keys, random delays, or a misunderstanding with a friend. Major stressors are more significant losses, the death of a loved one, a divorce, chronic illness, or unemployment.
Some stressors are a result of times of uncertainty or the feeling of not being in control. Without control, we feel useless.
In addition, we find ourselves rehashing stressful situations, which causes our body to respond as if we’re reliving the stressful moment. Focusing on past stress hinders our future peace.
Let’s be honest we do give ourselves ‘stress’ at times, making it more internal than external.
We bring about unnecessary stress by fixating on the worst-case scenario. We may be guilty of this, especially of late, focusing on the worst possible outcome and attracting the negative.
In today’s society, the youth are stressed about their body image and self-image as they attempt to meet unrealistic beauty standards. The pressure of wanting to fit into society’s image.
Among that, we have people feeling compelled to succeed and make money, allowing the world to shape their purpose. What even?
Whatever the reason may be, the impacts of stress can be lasting.
Stress takes a toll on our physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.
Physically long-term stress can lead to a stroke or heart attack as well as illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Weight change is a common sign of stress as one’s appetite fluctuates, causing overeating or undereating. Common physical signs of stress include high blood pressure or headaches. Many experience body aches or pains as the tension works its way into our muscles.
Emotionally we become angry, irritated, and moody. Short-fused and snappy.
Psychologically we experience excessive worrying and growing anxiety.
Behaviourally, you can tell by the neglect of self-care and poor hygiene. Key behavior signs to observe may be one’s reliance on drugs and alcohol as a means of coping. Someone fighting an inner battle with stress may be inclined to engage in unnecessary gambling and impulsive buying.
Note the signs.
Make the difference.
In terms of managing your stress, I don’t believe in a cure but rather a set of methods that make it easier to cope. This could be a combination of techniques like exercising regularly, journaling your thoughts, digital detoxing, or practicing meditation. Go back to basics and enjoy your hobbies or try out a new skill. Spend your time doing the things you love and that bring you joy. Be present and speak positive thoughts into existence. Feed your mind right and approach your health with the consistency it deserves. Organize your life so that it brings you stability in a world full of chaos. Be serious in the pursuit of taking ownership of your life and exiting the comfort of living with stress. Don’t waste time and energy how a matter you can’t change, and if you can do so.
The only control we have when it comes to stress is the way we choose to react to it, there is power in deciding what you will allow to move you. Cliche but “choose your battles and your response wisely.”
Anyways I’m stressed about talking about stress and typing the word stress.
So I’m out.
Mind Over Matter.