Stressing Out About Stress

by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Stress is all around us, everyday, and we have all devised a variety of ways – some effective, some less so – for dealing with it. Some of us exercise, while others listen to music. Some people like to take time out for a hob by , or to play with their children. People find countless ways to cope with the burden of stress.

What most people don't realize, however, is how pervasive stress really is in our lives. Stress doesn't simply come from a looming project's deadline at work, or from the in-laws coming to visit. It isn't just having to deal with an unexpected loss, or having to deal with all the details of planning a trip. Stress can come from the positive things that happen in our lives, too.

Stress is All Around Us

For example, a lot of people go through events in their lives that are happy, joyous times. Buying a new car or home, or getting married, or even just going out on a first date, are all things that most people look forward to. But just because we look forward to something doesn't mean it isn't stressful, and therefore, potentially fraught with unexpected difficulties. We can recognize the stress that comes from having to work under pressure or a deadline, or deal with an angry boss or coworker. But we're slower to recognize – if we do so at all – the stress associated with these other kinds of events.

Coworkers, friends, and significant others have to deal with all the things that we do as well. We sometimes forget that nearly everyone has to deal with some sort of stressful event nearly everyday. "You think you've had a bad day! Wait 'til you hear about mine…!" But outdoing one another with tales of woe generally isn't helpful.

Identifying the Stress

Knowing that stress is all around us is an important insight. It helps us to understand that it comes in the form of both positive and negative events that occur in our lives, and that nearly everyone we interact with during the day is dealing with some level of stress as well. Why does it help? Because once we're aware of all of the various forms stress can take, we are better prepared to recognize it when it rears its ugly head.

Once you've identified the positive or negative events that are causing you to feel stress, you can work on reducing those feelings. If you can't identify them or you misidentify them, you may end up unintentionally blaming others for your stressed-out feelings, or remove things in your life that you thought were causing you stress, but were actually not. Sometimes it helps to write things down – the event or issue that is causing you stress, how it makes you feel, how long it has been occurring, and some possible solutions to feeling less overwhelmed by it.

Helping Undo the Effects of Stress

Dealing with stress – no matter what its cause – is pretty much the same. One-time events, like buying a new home or car, or getting married, are usually resolved with the passage of the event. Other positive events, like welcoming a new ba by into your home, are longer-term stressors that require a longer-term outlook and solution. If possible, childcare should be equally divided between the two parents, for instance. That reduces the load that any single parent has to handle on his or her own. Any type of activity that you do to help relieve the stress around negative things can also be put to use for positive things. Exercising, talking with a friend, writing things down in a journal, or engaging in a favorite hob by are all great ways of dealing with stress, no matter its source.

Remember that stress is something everyone deals with in life. It is how we deal with it, though, that determines how much energy we devote to feeling stressed-out or bad. The worse we feel because of the stress, the less energy and emotion we have to devote to the things in our lives that really matter. Finding ways to reduce the level of stress in your life will open up reserves of energy and determination you may not know you had!

Date published: 8/15/01
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Oct 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.
-- John D. Rockefeller