Is life speeding up? It seems everyone needs to do more and more just to keep up. There’s always new technology to learn about, there’s loads of school work, homework, exams, training and Uni work to complete to get a good job. Then there’s job-hunting, working, making ends meet, relationships with friends, partners and family. Life can all get pretty heavy at times. So what’s the answer? This topic is about stress, how to recognise it and how to stay on top.
First of all, everyone has stress in their lives. It’s normal. Stress is something everyone needs in order to survive. Imagine standing under a gum tree after a windy, rainy night and suddenly hearing a crrraack! from above. Looking up they realise that a branch of a gum tree right above their head is about to drop. Their response is made up of thought (danger! I’m about to be flattened), physical responses (heart beats faster, breathing is quicker, blood rushes through their body) and a reaction (I’m outta here!).
If the tree limb falling didn’t stress that person at all, he or she wouldn’t bother to move out of the way. (Splat!) A certain amount of stress gets a person going and motivates him or her to do things. Stress is simply their responses and reactions to a stressor (something stressful). The tree limb falling was the stressor in the last example. The response was for the mind to think and the body to get ready. The reaction was to run for their life.
So stress is OK, stress is normal. Usually when people talk about being stressed it means stress levels are too high or the stress goes on too long to cope well. What everyone needs is enough skills to be able to cope with different levels of stress.
This is a person’s coping capacity. When the stress in their lives becomes greater than their individual coping capacity, he or she can become ill from stress. It’s like a scale that needs to balance.
When stress outweighs the coping capacity, people say things, like ‘I’m getting stressed’, or ‘I’m stressed out ‘or ‘I’m stressed to the max’.
Sometimes a person feels that pressure from other people around them is forcing them to keep going. They can be made to believe that they’re weak if they say they’re feeling stressed. This isn’t true — everyone gets stressed — some people just need more ways to deal with it or they might need to make changes to their lifestyle.
Everyone is different and everyone responds differently to situations that make them feel angry or worried or overloaded. This means that some people will become highly stressed about things that don’t worry other people like:
- Being harassed
- Being left out of a group
- A new school
- Being stuck in traffic
- Getting married
- Having a baby
- Moving out of home
- Going to the dentist
- A job interview
- Taking on a new responsibility.
It’s different for everyone but there are some things that all
people get highly stressed about — things like a family breakdown, the death of someone close, going to jail, too many responsibilities or being a victim of violent crime.
Crises like living through bushfire, a cyclone, an earthquake or living through a drought (especially for country people) are stressful events for everyone.
There are signs that tell a person that they’re over-stressed. That’s the time to deal with it. If he or she doesn’t deal with it they can eventually become quite ill. Some people say that experiencing high stress over a long time, and not dealing with it effectively contributes to high blood pressure, cancer and heart attacks.
It is important to acknowledge those first signs. If someone is trying to pretend to themselves that stress isn’t affecting them and keeps on pretending for too long, he or she can get to the stage where their body sends them strong messages to stop whatever it is that’s stressing them. If that person doesn’t have effective ways to deal with stress, he or she can become quite ill.