Stress factors deplete our reserves
|Our comfort Zone –||Based on our Tolerance|
|The way we handle stress depends on our stress tolerance; how much stress we can handle before it becomes distress, what we deem stressful, and how stressful we perceive the events, circumstances or environment to be.
As stress levels increase, they move from an acceptable level (OK) towards a level where they can cause distress (Not OK). Pressure builds and we approach the limits of our stress handling abilities.
Anything strange and new in our lives causes a modicum of stress which needs a response to adapt to the demands of the new event, situation or circumstance. Each adaptation requires resources and energy to deal with it. As our reserves get depleted our resistance to illness is lowered and if these events happen in quick succession, our vulnerability is increased. Our immune system gets compromised. Our susceptibility to psychosomatic and other illnesses, accidents, injuries and diseases increases. This also includes regular minor cuts, bruises, abrasions, recurring colds, coughs, flu, headaches and other aches and pains.
Bereavement, loss of income, examination stress, sleep deprivation, moving house and so on are major contributors to increased stress levels. Depression may also follow life events like birth, illness, divorce, separation, children leaving home, family quarrel, domestic unrest, menopause, retrenchment, and retirement. Chronic repressed feelings may lead to depression, apathy and a feeling of numbness. It is not the event per se that causes the depression or stress, but the meaning the events have. The more upsetting the event is to the individual, the greater the stress response.
There are personality factors that also impact on our stress response, as does our history and past experiences. For example, the Type A personality is much more prone to heart attacks and less likely to realise how stressed they are.
I am not talking here about predicting illness or bringing it about through a self-fulfilling prophecy, but rather about implementing preventative measures so that becoming ill is less likely.
Stress factors that make us vulnerable
What are the factors that create stress? Most of us experience two opposing forces that pull us in opposite directions and that cause inner conflict, indecision and a host of other dichotomies. The paradox lies in wanting to feel safe on the one hand, and wanting to explore and expand on the other, wanting a family and wanting freedom, wanting to have a relationship with someone special but also to play the field, wanting to be slim, but eating more than our bodies need, the wrong foods, or to fill a void. Our tolerance to hold and find a harmonious balance between these two poles informs how we will respond to the multiple stressors we have to deal with in daily life.
Our mind can also play tricks on us. The greater the perceived threat in any situation the more compromised we feel, the more stress we will create for ourselves, which often has very little to do with the actual level of threat, but more on how safe we feel and how secure we are as individuals; which has a lot to do with self esteem and how well you think you can handle any situation. Click here to find out what your stress-quotient is.
How come we get so stressed?
Our upbringing, our mindset, or outlook and our presuppositions, assumptions and expectations, evaluations, interpretations, predictions, generalizations, attitudes, beliefs, values, circumstances, the stressors in our lives, the stress factors that impact on us, and events, circumstances and situations requiring adaptive response all inform our predisposition to stress.
Each aspect of our life has its own inherent stress factors:
- Self Esteem: self trust, self confidence, self control, self image, self mastery. A lack of self esteem stops us doing the things we really want to because we feel we can’t for some reason. Maybe we feel we are not worthy, not able, do not have the necessary skills, or do not have the courage to do what it takes.
- Constitution: age, energy levels, health, genetics.
- Stage of life: menopausal, adolescent, retired, adult, geriatric.
- Lifestyle: habits, nutritional state, fitness level, genetics, biological factors (epileptic, paraplegic, spina bifida) and other health risk factors (diabetic, asthmatic, allergic).
- Personality: self esteem, self talk, level of willpower, resilience, predilections, preferences, and prejudices.
- Background: upbringing, social, family, ethnic group, schooling, education, training, religious.
- Habits: good, bad and indifferent habits, thought patterns, attitude and outlook.
- Behaviour: how emotionally volatile or mature we are, how organised, responsible, trustworthy we are, how effectively we communicate, how secure we feel, and so on.