Stress is basically any change you have to adapt to. Good or bad, positive or negative, large or small, change causes stress, but it’s not all bad. Imagine feeling stress-free all the time; you might not get anything done or engage in life at all. If nothing ever changed, imagine how boring life would be. On the flipside, sometimes everything hits at once. Researchers have found that illnesses and mental health disorder symptoms are more likely to develop after experiencing a time period of multiple stressors. (Here’s Dr. Holmes’ ‘Schedule of Recent Experience.’ This scale can help you build awareness around the amount of stressful things that have happened in your life so that you can take necessary steps to equip yourself on reducing your stress level.)
I describe the goal as “wanting an optimum level of stress”. That is was stress-management is all about. We all have stress, negative or positive, big or small. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have enough alertness and motivation to maximize your performance and satisfaction without pushing yourself over the edge into feelings of overwhelm and discouragement? I see this more and more in teenagers. They’re so badly wanting to be successful in school, talents, and relationships, but often they are lacking the skills to manage their stress.
Chronic stress can lead to an array of problems including anxiety. When your stress response is functioning continuously, anxiety results, the immune system gets burnt out, and there can be a depletion of neurotransmitters that keep the brain functioning in balance. Traumatic events, especially in childhood as the brain is developing the most, can affect the way the brain functions in response to ongoing stressors. The good news is people can use their brains to change the brains and restore balance to the mind and body. (Wehernberg & Prinz, 2007)
Some people have characteristics that leave them less vulnerable to stress. They view stressors as opportunities for personal growth and believe they are in control of their life circumstances. They perceive themselves as equipped with resources to manage their stress. “You can actually increase your ability to deal with distress b integrating into your everyday life positive activities such as solving challenging problems, practicing regular exercise workouts and relaxation techniques, staying in touch with enjoyable social contacts, following sensible dietary practices, and engaging in optimistic and rational thinking, humor, and play.” (Davis, Eshelman, McKay, 2008)
“The Anxious Brain: The Neurobiological Basis of Anxiety Disorders and How to Effectively Treat Them” by Wehrenberg & Prinz
“The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Davis, Eshelman, & McKay