How To Handle Stress


The 2015 top Google search for “how to” was HOW TO HANDLE STRESS.

What is Stress? 

A simple definition:

Stress is an internal response to an external stimulus: the reaction inside us to something outside of us.

Good stress:

Stress isn’t synonymous with bad. Stress can even be fun and people pay to be stressed. Do you ride roller coasters, view scary movies?

A little stress stimulates our thinking—preparing for an important presentation.

It can keep us alert—we’re more likely to keep track of our passport in the airport.

Stress promotes growthhandling life challenges develops maturity.

Coping with stress using food, alcohol and other drugs, including marijuana, stunts our emotional growth. If we take away the alcohol or drugs from a 40-year-old man who has been abusing substances to cope with stress since adolescence, he will have the maturity of a teenager.

Can too little stress have consequences?

Life is dull without any ups and downs. Too little stress can have some of the same symptoms as too much stress.

A reaction to a lack of stimulation can include sleep problems, boredom and even depression.

What is Your Level of Stress Tolerance?

People have different levels of stress tolerance. You may seek high stress or you may function best with a nurturing environment and lifestyle.

Too often work stress is viewed as a virtue, a badge of honor that conveys, “I am a hard worker.”

What are the effects of too much stress?

Too much stress, or stress over a long period of time wears us out: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Stress has physical and emotional components. The body’s immune system is depressed by stress. Many people who visit the doctor have stress-related problems, ranging from colds to symptoms of a heart attack.

Under stress we are more likely to have fender benders in our car, trip over a curb or lose our car keys. Stress and depression, particularly in men this can show up as road rage. Children have not developed the ability to understand or express stress and they often respond with stomachaches, headaches, regressing to a younger stage of development and have inappropriate behavior.

What happens during a stress response?

Fight/flight/freeze response:

When we perceive something as stressful the body’s alarm system activates.

The primitive brain registers ‘danger’ and the response is to fight the danger, run away or freeze (play dead).

Rarely are these choices appropriate or possible or useful. We can’t fight, run away or freeze.

The organism that we are goes through three phases:

1. Response Phase:

Some examples of the physical reaction:

Heart beats faster (to pump more blood to fight or run)

Pupils dilate (to see better)

Blood increases to arms and legs & cause them to tense (to run or fight)

Digestion slows down (no one in danger will be eating)

Blood pressure rises (to supply arms & legs)

Adrenaline & other chemicals increase (to assist running or fighting)

We think “danger!!”

2. Resistance Phase:

This stage is where our body attempts to repair damage caused by stress. The organism works to regain balance in all systems. Ongoing stress or repeated incidents of stress interferes with our ability to resist and recover.

There is indication that

  1. The ability to predict stress (such as the accountant who knows that after tax season stress will be lowered) or
  2. The ability to influence stress (such as avoiding procrastination or learning to prioritize)

allows us to handle high stress.

3. Exhaustion Phase:

When a stressful situation has passed, we don’t immediately return to a prior level of functioning. Symptoms such as sore muscles, stomach upsets, headaches, dulled thinking, irritability, etc. surface.

My extensive work with people who have experienced intense stress, such as workplace violence and natural disasters, indicates that while we typically want to collapse on the sofa after the danger has passed we recover faster and better if we do the opposite—we need to engage in some mild exercise, such as a brief walk outside. Well-meaning people want to feed us but until we physically settle-down, it is better to drink good fluids and only lightly eat when our system can tolerate food.

The best stress remedy? Support from others, talking it over, in depth, with feeling.

Contact me to see how I can help
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