Have you ever been stressed to the point that you behaved like a lunatic? Did stress ever lead you to do and say things that you deeply regretted later? Were you thoroughly uncivil when you felt that the pressure has gotten under your skin?
If you are human, you likely answered yes to all three questions. Yup, some days you might be just plain miserable.
To get a handle on your stress (and your behaviour), start by identifying the specific kinds of stress you’re up against. From there it will be easier to apply practical strategies and take informed action. Consider these five types of stress:
- Anticipatory Stress happens when you worry and obsess about things that have not yet happened (and likely never will). Your mind doesn’t know the difference between this self-manufactured imaginary stressor and real threats, so is dutifully activates all the internal alarm mechanisms in full force. Classical examples are an upcoming medical test (“I’m sure they’ll find cancer”) or stressors about a child’s future (“with this tattoo, she’ll never get anywhere in life”).
- Situational Stress is exactly that: it’s the stress you experience when you’re in the midst of a situation. It can be a fleeting instance such as an almost-car-crash, or a somewhat more prolonged one, such as when a colleague is off work for a while and you’re filling in for him or her (on top of your own job). Situational Stress is a lot like a sprint run – it’s intense but you know there’s a finishing line.
- Chronic Stress is when the stress is ongoing, with no end in sight. Unlike Situational Stress, Chronic Stress is here to stay. Whether it is caring for a disabled family member or dealing with a bully boss, it’s a marathon that goes on and on. Beware of chronic stress — it can tax you to the limit.
- Residual Stress is the stress that continues to affect you physically, emotionally, and cognitively even after the stressor itself has dissipated. You may have completed that big exam or delivered that project, but the effects of the stress you experienced are still lodged in your body and brain. You feel like you should be happy and carefree, but somehow you still can’t sleep at night and those tight muscles and clenched jaw simply won’t go away.
- Reflector Stress (that’s what I named this kind of stress, which so many of you have told me about) happens when other people’s stress rubs on to you. You walk into work on a perfectly good Wednesday morning all happy and energetic, but by the time you pass by several of your stressed out colleagues and get to your own work station, you find that you too are inexplicably edgy and tight. Their stress has reflected onto you and now it’s yours to have.
Here’s a great saying: If you don’t deal with stress, it will deal with you.
So my suggestion is: begin by understanding the nature of the ‘opponent’. From there. It will be much easier to handle it.
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