Many people use the word stress as well as different phrases about stress. For instance you will most likely hear someone on any given day say something like, “I’m so stressed I want to rip my hair out” or “Work was so stressful today”. However, many people don’t understand what stress is let alone that there are different levels and stages of stress.
If you look up the word stress in the dictionary (on the online version), Meriam-Webster says stress is: “a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc”. In addition, stress is: “a physical, chemical, emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.”
The word stress can mean different things to different people. Some people think they are stressed only when they are experiencing that “end of the rope” moment and they feel they are going to explode meaning everything leading up to that point is minor or not actual stress. However, there are some that consider themselves stressed if their steak is cooked medium well instead of medium rare (which is how I like my steak). Neither person is wrong because they are both experiencing stress, however, their perception of stress is slightly different as well as the stage of stress they are in.
In 1936 Hans Selye introduced the General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS. The GAS shows the three different stages of stress that a person can go through. The three stages are:
- Alarm Reaction: This is when the Fight or Flight (sympathetic) response system is activated and adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body.
- Stage of Resistance: The body starts to normalize and repair any damage, but remains on alert and hormones are elevated
- Stage of Exhaustion: If the stress continues too long your body’s ability and energy to deal with the stress diminishes to a dangerous point.
There are so many things that can cause us to feel or become stressed on a day-to-day basis (I’ll save those details for another time), but regardless of what it is, we have a choice as to how we balance our stress and deal with those situations. A good question to ask yourself when you are feeling stressed is, “Can I control or change the situation I am in?” For example, many people get stressed when they are stuck in traffic. However, is it worth getting upset over because can you really do anything about it?
Aside from getting off the exit (if you are able to) or pulling a Bruce Almighty and parting the cars, there’s really not much you can do except take a deep breath and know that will get to where you are going soon enough. So, next time you are faced with a stressful situation, try to take a step back and see if you able to change it. If so, do the best you can. If not, then consider taking a deep breath, let go of the fact that we can’t control everything, let the universe take over and enjoy the ride.