Stress Management

When you need to do more than just cope

What is stress?

In physics, stress is an amount of pressure — pushing, pulling or twisting — applied to an object such as a steel rod.

For people, this is a good metaphor. It’s the amount of pushing, pulling or twisting that you are experiencing at any time. Just like a steel rod, you can take a certain amount of stress before it becomes too much and you bend or break.

Too much stress affects your wellbeing, not just mental but also physical.

Stress usually is something that comes from outside of you. How you respond to the stress affects how much you can take before it becomes too much.

Stress management is about learning how to deal with the stress that you already have. Just as you can strengthen steel so that it can take more stress before it bends or breaks, so it’s possible to learn skills to be able to take more stress without letting it affect you negatively.

In other words, knowing how to respond to stress makes you more resilient, better able to cope, and more effective in whatever you are doing.

Stress usually is something that comes from outside of you. How you respond to the stress affects how much you can take before it becomes too much.

Not all stress is bad. Some stress, like the challenge of working at your favourite pastime, is healthy and enjoyable stress.

Good stress, bad stress

People often think that all stress is bad, and that a completely stress-free life would be great! But that’s not true. The fact is that to be happy, we have to have some stress in life. Because not all stress is bad stress.

Imagine a life where you had absolutely zero stress, where everything was done for you, and you had nothing whatsoever to do. You would be unbelievably bored! Sitting around all day, never doing anything fun or exciting; that’s what a perfectly stress-free life would be like.

The right amount of stress, and the right type of stress, is important for wellbeing and a healthy mind. Playing a game with someone, attending to your favourite pastime or hobby, having an interesting challenge at work, helping a relative solve a problem: These are all types of stress, and they’re all healthy for you.

It’s when you get too much stress, when it becomes overwhelming, that it becomes a problem. When you have too many problems to solve, too many challenges to be able to solve, when you are so overwhelmed with life’s problems that even playing a game becomes impossible.

That can include when your mind is overactive. When this happens, even normal amounts of stress can feel overwhelming, and turn into anxiety.

Whether you are dealing with unusual levels of stress, or you have a sensible amount of stress but don’t know how to deal with the emotional impact, that’s when stress management will work best. It’s when you can learn skills to strengthen yourself, just like toughened steel, so that you can cope when you weren’t coping before.

Sources of stress

A common definition of stress is when something external to you is causing a challenge. It can be just about anything, from a friendly challenge in a game to something serious like abuse. We call that your environment — think of a difficult neighbour, a bullying boss, inflation, politics, an unstable home, etc.

If you are in an environment that involves danger or abuse, your priority is to find help to get you out of that situation. In such a case, stress management can only help you to think more calmly and constructively so that you can make better decisions; it cannot by itself solve the problem.

Internal stress is when it comes from your own mind and not from outside, because your thoughts and responses are inappropriate to the situation. You might respond to something quite normal and trivial in an exaggerated way, maybe because you are remembering past trauma or betrayal. In such a case, we usually call this anxiety, but it definitely causes stress.

Reducing stress

Have you ever noticed a situation that one person finds terribly stressful, while another person thinks that it isn’t even a problem? You must have noticed this plenty of times; we see it a lot on social media as well as sometimes in real life.

What’s the difference? Why does one person respond so strongly, while another just thinks, “Meh”?

Well, almost everyone deals with life the way that they’ve been taught, and usually not deliberately! You’ve had a certain upbringing: parents, school, peers, life experiences, and more, that have shaped how you think, feel and respond to events.

The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to be a slave to our upbringing. Before I learned the skills that I have now, I used to panic easily, get upset over small things, and in general make my own life hard! I would turn to addictive behaviours (video games, alcohol, etc.) to cope instead of using constructive actions.

Learning how to change your thoughts and responses, and to be more philosophical in life, is easier than you would think (though it does take practice), and makes your life far more pleasant, even when things are hectic and difficult.

If you are struggling with stress or anxiety, and need someone to help you learn how to cope, call me in complete confidence to discuss your needs.