How many times a week do you think to yourself or say out loud “I’m stressed?” Whether it is job stress, school stress, family stress, financial stress, or body image stress it seems to be a common phrase that we have all used. However, have you ever wondered what it means to be stressed or what exactly stress is? Let’s walk through what stress is, the types of stressors that may be affecting you, and what stress interventions can help you wipe that phrase out of your life!
What is Stress?
Stress defined by the Oxford Dictionary (2017) is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” In order to have stress the following occur in combination:
Stressor: a trigger that has the potential to create a stressful response. There are a variety of stressors that are unique to each individual. What is important to note is that these stressors can either be positive types of stress (eustress) or negative types of stress (distress).
Examples of stressors are:
Physical Stress: Injury, fitness training, illness, dietary stress
Environmental Stress: Noise, pollution, temperature, light
Psychological Stress: Self-esteem, sadness, anxiety, fear
Sociological Stress: Work / family relationships, financial, school exams, bullying
Philosophical Stress: Meaning or purpose of life, core values, preoccupied with past or future
Stress Reactivity: this is how your body reacts to the stressor. Commonly this is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.This may show as an increase in your heart rate, sweating, increase in blood pressure, or nausea among other symptoms. What is important to be aware of is how long your body is in a state of stress, as this can have a long-term negative impact on your health and wellness.
Strain or Outcome of the stress reactivity: this is what happens as a result of your reaction to the stressful situation. Examples could be migraines, back pain, anxiety, fear development, road rage, self-esteem issues, or substance abuse issues.
So how do we combat stress and stressful situations? Relaxation!
Sounds easy doesn’t it? What you want to do is try to create a stress intervention before the stressor or stressful situation becomes out of your control and results in negative consequences. A huge part of managing stress is learning to exercise control – control of your thoughts and control of your emotions. The following stress interventions can help with exercising control.
Physical Fitness: physical activity can act as a distraction from the stressful situation. Your body releases hormones (endorphins) which can create a sense of euphoria, which can improve mood and help release tension from the body. So go find an activity that acts as your stress release!
Relaxation Techniques: techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or visualization can be extremely useful in minimizing the effects of stress.