Origins of stress

Stress can often originate from sources we hardly ever associate with it

Imagine that you just bought your dream car. It is that Jaguar. You had to scrape everything you had to buy it. You wanted to take it for a spin. It is a sunny spring day. You turned the stereo on, the top down and cruise merrily on the interstate. Isn’t life wonderful? You suddenly hear screeching noises in front. On no! The drivers in front of you are all slamming on their brakes. You see that each car is coming within split seconds of rear ending the one in front. Within seconds the stress of the situation enters your mind through your eyes and ears. Your mind or brain immediately takes over (Before you can even say Oh No! Not my new car!) The middle and lower part of your brain electrically triggers a massive fight or flight response. Your legs slam on the brake. You grip the steering wheel and try to straighten it.

Your body dumps sugars and fats into your bloodstream for quick energy and strength. You feel your heart pounding in your chest and temples. Your brain is receiving more oxygen to sharpen your senses and coordination. The loud screeches around you haven’t stopped yet. In your rearview mirror, you see a car approaching your car fast. You know the driver won’t be able to stop the car in time to avoid hitting your vehicle. You go through a sudden anxiety and helpless feeling. You cannot do anything about it. Your brain sends more chemicals to your bloodstream. These chemicals help you to keep alert for an extended period of time. Finally it all stopped. Thank God, you have escaped with minor injuries. But your brand new Jaguar is mashed! What you had just undergone is how stress works and how we cope with it. This is an example of a stress that was triggered by events or stimuli from outside your body.

Other types of stress that result from outside events are job related stress: when your boss gives you unreasonable jobs, working with unreasonable customers; relationship induced stress: marital problems, death of a spouse, divorce; money problems: when all the bills are due in January and you don’t have money to pay for it. In the example cited above, when you think of the accident, you get stressed. Some people get a stress attack when they drive near the spot of the accident. This type of stress is called mind stressor. The origin of the stress, in this case, is within you. You go home finally. You are so upset you cannot sleep. Your muscles are very tense. Now you start worrying about your inability to sleep or about your body aches and pains. This creates more stress. See how this is triggering a domino effect. If you don’t do something about it soon enough you can die.

Stress can also originate from emotional and psychological causes. For example, thinking of such an accident or a pending IRS/Inland Revenue audit makes people anxious; many find it difficult to sleep. Then they worry about not getting enough sleep and how they will go to work without sleep. And so on. One stressful event leads to another and, if we don’t control it, the domino effect kicks in. Even joyous events, such as, a wedding, a job promotion, buying a new home, or the birth of a child, can cause much stress.

You also might get stressed out if you cannot achieve a particular goal or satisfy a certain wish. For instance, you may want to have a child but cannot conceive. Fertility tests can’t discover any reasons for this, and you feel very frustrated – why is this happening to you? Certainly this is a very emotional issue – one that you do not have much control over – that can cause a lot of stress in your life.

Stress also exists in tandem with the pressure you feel when you perceive that negative consequences are attached to your actions. For instance, you might feel pressured to maintain a certain level of performance at work or else risk getting fired. If you find yourself thinking in this way, you should stop and consider whether the threat is real or if you are just being too hard on yourself. You might be able to control and even eliminate this kind of stress from your life.

Stress also stems from conflict, which is not always negative, For instance, a conflict could occur in having to choose between two positive goals of equal value, such as, choosing between two excellent job offers. Or your conflict could involve a choice that has both a positive and negative outcome, such as you’re getting married but it necessitates your moving across the country away from family and friends. Numerous life events, such as, the death of a family member or friend, the loss of a job, buying a house or moving, having a child, cause stress. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, developed a list of major life stressors, listed below, beginning with the most stressful event:

  • Death of a spouse
  • Divorce Marital /separation
  • Imprisonment
  • Death of a close relative
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Fired from a job
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Retirement
  • Illness of a relative
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual problems
  • Birth or adoption
  • Business readjustment
  • Change in financial status
  • Death of a close friend
  • Change to different work
  • Increased arguments with spouse
  • Mortgage or loan for major purchase
  • Foreclosure on mortgage or loan
  • Change in job responsibilities
  • Child leaving home
  • Problems with in-laws
  • Outstanding personal achievement
  • Spouse begins or stops work
  • Begin or end school
  • Change in living conditions
  • Changing personal habits
  • Problems with your boss
  • Change in work hours/conditions
  • Change in residence or school/ Recreation/ Church or social activities/ Mortgage
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Change in family gatherings
  • Change in eating habits
  • Vacation
  • Christmas Minor law violations
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