In Western societies, the term ‘stress’ is commonly used to describe our frenetic lifestyle, the urgent pace of work or any difficult situation that we face. More strictly, stress means our body reaction to any stimuli or solicitation on organization of such. The stress must be understood as a state of activation of the body which must mobilize its defences to face a potentially threatening situation.
In the literature, distinctions were made between positive stress, “good stress”, which becomes an adaptive engine and negative stress, with a negative impact on the person, either at the physical level (cardiovascular, gastric problems, headaches…), psychological (anxiety, anger, depression, problems of memory, concentration…) or even psychosomatic (eczema, asthma).
Moreover, one can differentiate an acute, contextual stress, caused by an isolated or casual event (for example, a presentation at work), or a chronic stress, expressed in a persistent manner, related to environmental conditions that are more difficult to control (such are poor working conditions, a chronic conflict with a third party or adaptation to a host society).
The causes may be various (work pressure, unhealthy social relations, dysfunctional family dynamics, financial or legal problems etc.). Each of us can identify its own factors of daily stress and each person has a way to respond to it.
Stress is a response mechanism of the body that can lead the stressed person to feel different emotions (fear, anger, rage, helplessness, and despair). Dr. Seyle described the evolution of the response of stress according to different stages: (1) initial alarm (the body mobilizes against the threat); (2) phase of resistance (the body maintain its response to fit) and, if the stressor persists; (3) stage of exhaustion (because the body cannot remain indefinitely in the resistance phase).
In addition, stress induces instinctively two types of behavior: (1) denial. If this response may sometimes be beneficial (e.g. move if your neighborhood gets too noisy), it is not always possible or desirable. The other answer (2) acceptance or adaptation to the agent stressful, which is often the best solution.
Life brings inexorably a lot of stress factors and there is no magic wand to eliminate them.
Stress becomes a problem when the person doesn’t seem to have the resources to understand situation, or when the stressful situation continues unless the individual can develop a control, or at least, a perception that allows the person to master minimally the situation.
Stress management is a common reason to consult a psychologist or psychotherapist. Psychotherapy can then help the person to better cope with the stress by preparing mentally and physically. Depending on the approach, some methods may be used (social skills/communication training, problem-solving, introspection/knowledge of self, analysis of negative thoughts, affirmation of oneself, breathing/relaxation, implementation of changes in life style, etc.,). In a therapeutic setting, professionals can assist you in the identification of factors causing stress and through the implementation of different coping strategies to face it positively.
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