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What is Stress?



If you have been looking seriously at how to manage the signs and symptoms of stress, what is stress is a question that makes a great deal of sense. There are so many stressed people in the world that don't seem to be managing stress well.

What is stress

What are they doing wrong, and what can you do right? For you to successfully manage stress, it seems vital to understand it. Let's first look at, and gain appreciation of what stress is for. During highly stressful situations it probably seems that stress symptoms are good for nothing!

But symptoms of stress are actually a gift that has value. Acknowledging this is the first key answer to 'what is stress management requiring today?'.

In recognizing this value, you will be more likely to wisely use proper stress management techniques rather than looking only at how to relieve stress symptoms.

Reasons For Stress

The main causes of stress might appear to come in many shapes and disguises from birth to death. But what causes stress is always the same... the fact that something in our system and homeostasis is challenged.

Years ago the answer to 'what is stress management relying on' might have been... quick responses, a fast right hand upper cut, or good legs and lungs to run with! As cavemen, the 'fight or flight' response was likely quite useful, and the better your responses, the more successful your stress management! In modern day society, fighting and fleeing rarely move us forward in healthy ways. In our current society we are predominantly intellectually active... not hunters nor warriors. And our stressors are rarely lions, but often everyday encounters with traffic, time constraints, and disagreements.

When we ask 'what is stress management requiring today', we would do better to be looking at our intellect for answers, because our lives are predominantly based on the activity of our minds these days. With that, we get a very different answer...

Successful stress management today calls on us to understand the reason for stress in modern society. It is still twofold, but rather than fighting or fleeing, it's to build us stronger, and wiser!

  1. Stress builds us stronger - Many people say that stressing a system is one of the best ways to promote growth and strength.

    Here's a physical example to get your head around :). Consider the stress incurred when building a muscle through weight lifting (This is an example of eustress, and is thought of as good stress).

    When a person lifts a little bit more weight than their muscles are built for, their muscles tear a wee bit. And then once the muscle is allowed to rest, it mends... stronger than before and able to lift greater weight.

    But as you can imagine, too much stress seriously breaks a system rather than strengthens it. If the muscle is not allowed to rest, and more and more weight lifting is demanded of it, the muscle may experience a severe tear, or perhaps tendons may tear, or bones may dislocate. When that happens, it has gone beyond the point of being a motivating and positive stress.

    So, what is stress management relying on here? It's relying on us to take care of ourselves. We play a role in our health and fitness, rest and relaxation, which in turn allows us to deal more capably with stress. There is a fine balance between stress that promotes growth, and hurtful debilitating stress, and we must play a responsible role in that.

    But as Friedrich Nietzsche would say...

    "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

  2. Stress is a wake up call - If you are experiencing stress, it's the perfect opportunity to stop, reflect, and ask 'what is stress management counting on in this situation'. What is stress telling me, what do I have to do, or change, in order to handle this stressful situation more comfortably?' How can I learn from this and become better?

    Think again about the weight lifting... A serious weightlifter knows what to do next to build up to handle greater weight lifting challenges. They know the answer to 'what is stress management demanding for me now'.

    He/she has a plan mapped out to manage their stress, and they follow it in order to get from where they are to where they want to be. They know that based on their current abilities, they will have to develop new skills and abilities to achieve their goals. Each week when they exercise, they are able to re-evaluate their plan of what they are doing, and re-calculate what they need to change in order to achieve their goal.

    In the physical exercise example above, it's a stress situation that you choose to bring on yourself. What of an uninvited stressful event that delivers emotional, intellectual and spiritual distress?

Emotional Stress Example

Let's look at probably the most stressful situation people encounter... the death of a loved one. It's a huge challenge for most people facing it, and perfectly normal to mourn your loss. The stress stems from things like the sadness of knowing you will never see that person again, wondering how you can go on without them, facing the unknown alone and feeling uncertain about what has really happened to them, and perhaps you can list another dozen.

So what is stress management relying on in that situation? Again, ask with sincerity... 'what is your stress possibly telling you'? If you look, it's likely you'll see the precise places where life lessons are waiting for you. The discomfort might be helping to make you aware of:

  • what causes you fear
  • where you lack faith
  • how you value yourself

I know that when a loved one dies you might be so raw with pain that you cannot even think about these things for sometime. And people 'heal' at different rates. But lessons are there waiting for you if you really want to explore, and your successful stress management is relying on you to gain perspective and understanding.

Draw hope from some people and cultures who celebrate natural death as a passing into another phase of experience for your beloved. (You might enjoy this short inspirational poem about life and death.) And look at your symptoms of stress as a means of learning life lessons and finding inner peace through understanding.

If your aim is to live a peaceful stress free life, then it's important for you to be recognizing that the main cause of stress for you does reside in your mind, and your stress symptoms are a wake up call. They are telling you that there is something for you to discover in your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health that you can address to increase your abilities to deal with stress, and thereby increase your peace.

So when someone asks you 'what is stress management requiring today', you can share the news that successful stress management relies on us finding the lessons and learning how to more capably deal with the variety of situations we encounter in life. And... we must look for the opportunities it presents!





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