"Stress" is such a common word in our vocabulary these days. We all experience stress, but what exactly is it?
A Fact with Wow Factor
Stress levels have risen dangerously high around the world. In the United States alone, 77% of people experience physical ailments due to stress, and 73% of people suffer psychologically. [Source]
Stress Less Tip
Broadly speaking, stress is your response(s) to any challenge perceived as a possible disruption to your "normal" internal or external world. If I could use only one word to describe stress, CHANGE would be the perfect word. Mapping out stress shows how all of the pieces, or changes, from the definition fit together.
If you read Stress Less Quick Tip #1, you know that stress can be good. Now, let's focus on when stress becomes a negative force, as in the fact above. Imagine that you make a doctor's appointment for headaches you've been experiencing lately. The initial change, or disruption, would be the doctor's appointment that you scheduled. This presents a challenge in the realization that the doctor may give you bad news about your health. In response, your mind races, or worries, to prepare yourself for each type of bad news the doctor could potentially report.
Use any of the three stages as your starting point for mapping out stress. The process provides a great overall view of what causes you stress and the ways in which it affects your physical and mental health. Speaking of the ways in which stress affects your health...
Stress prompts predictable responses in your biological functions that result in specific effects on your mood, energy level, social interactions, focus, and memory. You're likely bothered more by symptoms in one category than any other when stressed. Which one?
Physical: pain, poor sleep, lack of energy, digestive issues, or weight loss/gain
Mental: difficulty concentrating or remembering things, depressed mood, overwhelm, anxiety, or frustration
Social: disinterest in or lack of time for socializing, strained relationships, or difficulty feeling connected with others
Take the Situational Stress Triggers Quiz that I assembled from a variety of common stress tests. It lets you take inventory of recent events in your life. Then, it shows you how much stress specific situations create and your risk level of developing health issues as a result.
Play an imaginary game of Jenga® with your stress triggers to help visualize the cumulative effect of these daily disruptions. For every negative stressor you experience, you must remove a block from the bottom of the structure and put it on top. Too many of these events makes the column (and life) increasingly "unbalanced."
Don't give up hope! You earn "cheats" in my version of stress Jenga®. For every positive stressor or act of self care, take a block off of the top and put it back in a previously-made hole. This reinforces the base to better support the rest of the column. Daily exercise and creative leisure pursuits offer real-life sources of stability in the face of stress.
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