What Is Stress?
Stress is a reality for so many of us in today’s world. Whether triggered by the overwhelming demands of the workplace, the complexities of relationships, or uncertainty and fear about goings on in the world or our immediate surroundings, we’ve all battled it at one point or another. In fact, about half of Americans say they are dealing with moderate stress. When experienced over prolonged periods of time, stress can be detrimental to our mental and even physical health, causing high blood pressure, loss of sleep, headaches, digestive issues, eating disorders, and can morph into depression.
At The Midtown Practice, our experienced clinicians can help you identify and cope with stress when it becomes overwhelming and give you tools to work through tough times and reclaim peace of mind and confidence.
Causes of Stress
One theory of how stress builds in each of us – temporarily or over extended periods – is that feelings of uncertainty and lack of control lead to premonitions of bad outcomes. For example, in the workplace, if the long list of tasks and responsibilities we’re given goes uncompleted, it’s quite likely our supervisors will not be happy. That could lead to trouble on the job and an increase in anxiety.
For younger people, school can be a hotbed of headaches: juggling various classes, maintaining acceptable grades by adequately preparing for tests and doing homework, navigating relationships with teachers—all of these areas provide opportunities for stress to grow. If it’s not addressed, a student can lose focus academically and personally.
Financial insecurity breeds stress as well. The pressure to earn enough to support one’s self and family is ever present. Meanwhile the clerical work to keep track of bills, taxes, rent and other expenses creates its own worries. Not being able to efficiently manage money or earn enough to support a lifestyle – especially in lean times – causes many of us to think about what might happen if we just can’t keep up with our financial needs.
Though they can often be a source of relief and support, personal relationships can also contribute to emotional and mental pressures. When problems arise with neighbors, friends, family members or romantic partners, we often experience uncertainty and fear, wondering whether the troubles at hand might lead to extended arguments or even a severing of ties with those close to us. Dwelling on the possibility of those types of losses can cause us to experience immense stress.
At The Midtown Practice, we realize that every client experiences stress differently and we work with them to identify the areas in their lives that are causing them the most worry.
The “Bad” Stress
We all feel stress sometimes, but some of us feel it almost all the time. This is called Chronic Stress, and is the result of feeling almost constant pressure, often on several fronts. Whether the triggers come from a heavy workload, major life changes, money or troubles in one’s personal life, the constant grind of uncertainty and fear that manifests can lead us to experience down moods, headaches, insomnia, and generally reduce our quality of life.
Some bouts of fear and uncertainty can lead to intense periods of panic. This is known as Acute Stress and triggers might include losing a job, going through emotionally traumatic experiences, losing a loved one or facing a phobia.
The “Good” Stress
Believe it or not, not all mental and emotional stress is harmful. It can actually help you achieve goals and fight through adversity. Facing pressure to perform and adhere to high standards – be it at work, in academics or on the playing field – can be a powerful motivator to be more productive. Let’s face it, when we find challenging tasks before us, we put pressure on ourselves to meet them head on and succeed. Others in our surroundings may also contribute pressure to spur us on towards those same goals.
That can surely cause stress to creep into the equation. But it also may push us to be our best selves and battle through adversity. And when we succeed – having used that stress as a type of fuel to bring our A-game – future challenges don’t seem quite as daunting, and when we find ourselves in those trying times again in the future, we find that the stress we’d felt before has been replaced with confidence.
What Stress Does to Us
The fallout from experiencing stress can often impact us physically. Many who live with chronic stress or find themselves faced with many instances of acute stress experience mild symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach or fatigue. More serious side effects can include chest pains, sleeplessness, or behavioral changes like developing eating disorders, experiencing angry outbursts or turning to tobacco, alcohol or drugs to find relief.
Sometimes the fears and uncertainties we harbor seem simply too daunting to face and we fall deeper into depression and withdraw from our normal lives and those we care about.