“Stressor: Physical, psychological, or social force that puts real or perceived demands on the body, emotions, mind, or spirit of an individual.” (From BusinessDictionary.com)
Stress is a “a negative reaction to environmental stressors” (Resick, 2001). Stress is a very unusual animal. Too much of it is bad. And too little of it is also bad. There’s actual research that shows that victims of a traumatic event seem to do better if they have some experience of stress prior to the trauma. However, the key here is “some stress”. Victims who have had extreme high stress or very low stress don’t do as well in comparison. Trauma is an extreme form of stress involving something that threatens a person’s life or self (identity, beliefs, etc.) or the life or self of a person close to them (family, friend, co-worker, classmate, etc.). Usually, we don’t experience trauma everyday. However, we do experience stress more often. And this everyday stress, if not monitored, can really hurt you. Prolonged stress can cause your immune system to become compromised, and you tend to get sick more easily. Your body becomes so busy in an effort to deal with the stress you are placing on it that it uses up the energy it needs to construct elements it needs to fortify your immune system. On the flip side, without any stress at all you don’t have an opportunity to see your potential or to strengthen your abilities. For example, when you don’t exercise for several days, weeks, or maybe longer, and then decide to exercise a lot you end up in pain. However, if you exercise everyday and train your body to become use to the stress of exercising daily, it doesn’t feel as painful. The same goes for the bridge below. If the steel that composes the structure of the bridge is never tested prior to building, there is a risk that simply cars and trucks driving over the bridge can cause the bridge to collapse. In the case of someone with an anxiety disorder, stress becomes more complicated. Someone with an anxiety disorder is stressed by situations or things that may not be stressful to someone without an anxiety disorder. For instance, several years ago it was very difficult for me to be in a crowd of people. And I often avoided crowded places. But how could I ever learn how to get over the anxiety, or stress that I felt, if I never put myself in the situation and see for myself that I could be okay there. But how I’ve learned, and am still learning, how to feel okay around other people is a topic for another post. My point here is that stress is a necessary part of life. But you have to measure for yourself how much you can handle. And often you can handle more than you thought you could. However, it’s necessary to keep track of what stresses you and know when you need to stop and take a break. In the same way you eat to be able to function or take a shower everyday to prevent yourself from smelling bad, you have to give yourself daily doses of recovery time. So, don’t avoid the stress. It will most likely make its way into your life in some form or another. Train yourself to live your life and be yourself despite the stress. It helps me to give myself rest in the form of recreation, sleep, prayer, reflection, and relaxation to allow my body, mind, and soul to recover from one bout of stress and be able to withstand the bouts of stress to come. And sometimes it’s necessary to cut out certain activities to lower the stress. I often overwhelm myself with stressors in the form of different tasks I have to do or worries I have in my different roles of mother, wife, student, and worker. And too frequently, I forget to take care of myself. In a way, I’m writing this post not only to inform readers, but also to remind myself to stop and recover.
Fred Hartman Bridge in Baytown, Texas. (Picture taken by Claudia 2012)References:
Stress and Trauma by Patricia A. Resick (2001) Related Post: Anxiety Tip #5: Sleep Anxiety Tip #3: Music Anxiety Tip #1: Relaxation