By Melaney Stapley.
Have you ever woken up and thought, “I really can’t get through today”? Where the stress of every single day has finally caught up to you and you feel like you can’t take it anymore? We’ve all probably been there. But what is stressing us so much, and why does it have such an effect on us?
It is common for the word “stress” to be used to describe negative effects in someone’s life. However, it is not stress by itself that is responsible for the negative impact an individual feels from their surroundings. In a psychology lecture given by Dr. Robert Keone, he identifies that there is a difference between a “stressor” and “stress”. A stressor is a “stimuli that causes physiological, psychological, and emotional reactions” (Keone). Stress is the “response to perceived threats or challenges resulting from stimuli” (Keone). In other words, a stressor is an event that occurs in someone’s life that they may perceive as a cause of strain, and stress, by itself, is simply their body’s response to that threat. The most important factor of this equation is how the person perceives their circumstances.
There is no doubt that there are many things in our lives that can be stressful. Whether it’s a pile of projects, having to get to work on time, needing to pay bills, or a presentation in front of peers, factors such as traffic, a small paycheck, or simply a fear of being in front of others can easily be stressful to an individual. However, their level of stress is subject to how they view it. Traffic is not stressful to someone who is not concerned about being somewhere by a specific time. Paying bills could be stressful for someone with a smaller budget who is just trying to make ends meet, whereas someone else may not be as concerned about their living expenses. It can be said that we can’t wholly attribute stress to environmental factors, as not all situations stress people the same way.
Therefore, our perception of our surroundings can play a role in how we are affected by them. We can either let it negatively impact our life, or we can have a positive outlook.
According to Dr. Keone, there are even two kinds of stress that be caused by someone’s circumstances: positive stress called “eustress”, and negative stress called “distress”. Distress is most commonly associated with the word “stress” because many people view stress as a bad thing. However, there is eustress, which is turning a threatening situation into something positive. For instance, players on a sports team, or performers in a production, are under an intense amount of pressure to perform with accuracy and precision by their coaches/producers, family and friends, organizations they represent, and even their own team. However, this type of stress can cause them to increase physical performance and benefit them. This kind of effect that uses stress to produce a positive outcome is eustress. Achieving new world records, reaching one’s full potential, even saving lives are all products of eustress. From a body builder being able to lift far more than they ever have in practice, to a surgeon accurately performing a technically challenging surgery, one can convert their stress into fuel to meet their challenges.
Stress isn’t all bad; it’s potential. From a physiological standpoint, stress is described as “…your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat” or as “…the body’s way of protecting you” (“Stress”). When someone is in a stressful situation, their body floods with hormones to prepare them to handle the trial. This is where the good and bad effects of stress are determined. Long periods of these hormones flooding the body are detrimental to one’s health, but if they have an outlet of productive application (such as the athletes and performers experience), they can be beneficial instead.
Therefore, how you perceive and react to stress is vital. Dr. Keone additionally states that what determines whether stress will have good or bad outcomes is one’s perception of whether or not it is something of which they have control. If one believes they have all the necessary requirements to meet the challenge, then they are more apt to not let the stress of the situation breed negative consequences. However, the less one feels that they can control their circumstances the more likely it is that they will break down underneath the pressure.
In this way, your perception of stress can alter its effect on you. If you allow it to make you feel as though you have no control over it, it’ll beat you down. If you react with positivity, it might just help you do incredible things. Although situations can be stressful at times, remember that stress only has the power you give it. Only you can decide how you will let it affect you. It is important that we all look inside ourselves and identify what the real threat is. Is our environment and stress the enemy or is it ourselves? When you face a trial, decide who is going to be in charge of the outcome–you or your circumstances. Don’t let your surroundings determine your distress. It is up to you to decide. So when the time comes, know your enemy.
Motivation, Fearless. “If There Is No Enemy within, the Enemy Outside Can Do Us No Harm. Motivational Video.” Fearless Motivation – Motivational Videos & Music, Fearless Motivation – Motivational Videos & Music, 23 May 2018, http://www.fearlessmotivation.com/2017/09/05/if-there-is-no-enemy-within-the-enemy-outside-can-do-us-no-harm/.
Keone, Robert. Stress and Health. Macmillan Learning. Psychology 101, 2018.
“Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes.” Healthy Eating Tips to Prevent, Control, and Reverse Diabetes, Helpguide.org,www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm