Stress has always been a part of our daily lives, beginning with the fight or flight response we inherited from our early ancestors.
Many of our stresses are natural everyday responses to situations where our bodies react in a somewhat stimulated way.
This type of stress could be viewed as ‘positive’ or ‘necessary’ stress because without it we would probably lead quite inactive, dull and directionless lives.
As a BBC health expert points out:
“Stress in itself isn’t necessarily harmful. Everyone needs goals and challenges. However, too much Stress can be damaging”.
In our current society, people are increasingly experiencing elevated levels of stress, or what could be called ‘negative’ stress.
This is the type of stress that can make you feel overwhelmed and jittery.
Stress is a well-known trigger for depression and it can also affect your physical health.
There are numbers of triggers for stress, however the following are generally accepted as being in the top dozen: any sort of loss, from bereavement, divorce and separation to a child leaving home; long-term illness and disability; marriage; moving house; a new job; holidays and work.
The symptoms of negative stress are well known and may include:
- Increased irritability
- Heightened sensitivity to criticism
- Signs of tension, such as nail-biting
- Difficulty getting to sleep and early morning waking
- Drinking and smoking more
- Loss of concentration
We all have a level of stress, including negative stress, which is manageable for us.
This level will vary from person to person and is dependent upon a number of factors, for example, self-confidence and self-esteem, stability of lifestyle and relationships, unresolved issues from our past.
So, as long as we keep our stress levels below our individual limit, we are likely to be able to function effectively.
However, if we are operating at our individual limit all the time, any additional stress (even something very small) may tip the balance and move us from a position of experiencing a manageable level of stress, to a situation where we are feeling completely overloaded or out of control.
What is important when thinking about our stress levels is the degree to which our response to a certain trigger has been either appropriate or disproportionate.
Equally important to consider is the degree to which stress is beginning to affect other aspects of our lives.