You have probably heard people (including yourself) say many times, “I’m really stressed out!” When you hear that, you usually understand what they’re talking about. But, when professionals use that terminology, what do they mean? Generally speaking, they refer to stress as any time events in our lives begin to tax our coping abilities, usually events that trigger considerable anxiety, frustration, depression, and a variety of physical symptoms. Stressful events usually involve four things:
- An intensity of feelings (e.g., strong feelings of agitation and upset, desires to flee threatening situations, or attack the frustrating barrier).
- A heightened level of bodily tension, often leading to headaches, muscle aches, and various other bodily aches and pain. It can also include increased blood pressure, sometimes heart palpitations, frequent sighing or even at times shortness of breath, jaw clenching, and muscular fatigue.
- Variations in the level of experienced unpleasantness of the event or situation.
- Varying degrees of complexity in the situation, including so-called “cluster stress”. This occurs when you are experiencing several stressors at the same time (e.g., losing your job, marital difficulties, and losing a parent, all occurring together or in close sequence).
Stressful circumstances can include physical injuries, exposure to emotionally or physically threatening situations, difficult losses, marital or family upheaval, conflicting job or career issues, situations of prolonged uncertainty, and problems for which you see no solution or answer. Strangely enough, even getting married, largely thought of as a wonderful occasion, has also been listed as a stressful event! That’s because positive events can present some stress too.
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