Stress is a word that most of us use in common parlance. By limited understanding, we all assume that stress is either situational or incident driven. We tend to think that modern times are full of stress, that what we face everyday even within our daily routines and responsibilities contributes to stress.
At home, outside the house, within our personal and professional circles, we find a thousand causes of stress. But have any of us ever cared to find out what ‘Stress’ really means? Maybe very few of us would even want to know. But it is crucial to understand the true meaning of stress before we try and analyse stressors and find ways to relieve stress.
On a theoretical level stress is a state of psychological and physiological imbalance resulting from the disparity between situational demand and the individual’s ability and motivation to meet those needs. But you would be surprised to know that Stress has its roots far deeper than just causes and occurrences. All emphasis is laid on the symptoms of stress but not the root cause, thus leaving its cure farfetched.
Generally, most people use the word stress to refer to negative experiences. However, thinking about stress exclusively as something negative is a false impression. If I were to put it practically, Stress is our reaction to a changing, demanding environment. Properly considered, stress is really more about our capacity to handle change than it is about whether that change makes us feel good or bad. Change happens all the time, in personal relationships and work life so it is important that we learn to handle stress in a suitable manner.
Stress is primarily based on perceptions, fears and anxieties. It is how one perceives a given situation or task. It is not what is actually happening, but a person’s perception of what is happening. So the way we respond to any situation will lead us towards a stressful or a stress-free outcome. Believe it or not, directing our thoughts in the right manner can make any situation whether on the personal or professional front stress-free. I will suggest a few practical methods that can be used for relieving stress but you will have to gather one fact that unless you want to have Stress in your life, it can never grow on you. Physically and emotionally, momentary reactions will lead to stress but once you identify the strategies to fight long term stress, you will be able to slowly rise above any situation and find realistic solutions.
Imagine a situation where nothing in life causes you any stress or excitement. You may become totally bored or may not be driven to live up to your potential. Some life changes such as joining a new job, getting married, or studying to master a new skill are positive and life-enhancing events, even though they can also be quite stressful. The stress generated out of these situations often pushes one to perform better. Even short-term stress, like getting set for an important job presentation, test, interview, or event gives you extra energy to do your best. This stress is termed Eustress or Positive stress. On the other front is Distress or extreme and long-term stress. This kind of negative stress needs attention because it can affect your physical and mental state, leaving you unable to concentrate or think clearly. There are tips and tricks to gently tackle all forms of stress, whether short term or long term that I will detail later in the chapter. But let’s start by understanding what really causes ‘Stress’?