How much stress is too much?
As I spoke of in a previous post, events that activate the stress response was originally intended to protect us. And not all stress is necessarily bad. There are events in life, even daily life, that benefit from the release of stress hormones. It may make us perform better in a presentation or on a test. It may make us rise to the challenge of doing well in a competitive event or maybe it is even reacting in order to protect ourselves or others.
The problem is that in today’s society and culture, stress can easily cross the line into the way too much stress category and become a potentially unhealthy situation. Too much stress can cause damage to our health in many ways. Not just our physical health, but it can cause problems in our mental, emotional and social health. If you are thinking you may have crossed the line, you probably already have.
Still Not Sure?
To answer what is too much stress can be difficult because what is too much for one person might not be for another. We all handle stress a little bit differently. There are similar ways we can all deal with stress, but because we are all individuals at different points in our lives, our styles of stress management may differ slightly.
Generally, the way we typically deal with stress is related to our general self esteem, whether our approach to life is generally positive or negative, our emotional status and even our genetics including environmental factors. Typically, if you have crossed the line, your stress tolerance level reaches its limit and even little added stresses can push you into overload.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if maybe you are moving into the too much stress category…
1. Do minor problems and disappointments upset you excessively?
2. Do the small pleasures of life fail to satisfy you?
3. Are you unable to stop thinking of your worries?
4. Do you feel inadequate or suffer from self-doubt?
5. Are you constantly tired?
6. Do you experience flashes of anger over situations which used to not bother you?
7. Have you noticed a change in sleeping or eating patterns?
8. Do you suffer from chronic pain, headaches, or back aches?
If the answer to some of these questions is yes, it could be your stress level needs attention. Keep in mind that answering yes to some of these may also indicate other concerns, such as depression. If you have concerns with depression, you should seek medical consultation from your medical care provider.
Keeping Stress Less
There are some things you can look at that could improve your ability to cope with the stress in your life. Of course, if you can lower your stress altogether, that will give you more energy to handle those things you can’t change.
- A good self esteem and self concept is important for a lot of things, but handling stress is one of them. If your self esteem is lacking, you might search for a good book on building self esteem.
- Having a supportive network can be helpful. Family or friends. Even if you only have a couple, that is better than isolating yourself from everyone. If you go to church, there are often small groups that you can get involved in. This can be an excellent supportive venue. If you have any hobbies or activities you like, you can often find small groups through your community colleges, senior centers and your parks and recreation department.
- As mentioned before, having a positive attitude can improve many things in your life, but it also helps you to deal with stress more effectively. If you have gotten into the habit of being negative about everything, you might search for a fun book that can help you turn that tide to a more positive approach in life.
- If you don’t know already, find a healthy way for you to deal with emotions that you might face. We all have times of anger, sadness or overwhelm. Actually planning ahead with maybe a specific phrase or action that redirects these emotions from escalating can be quite useful. We do this with dog training. For example, if you have a dog that is passing by another dog and you don’t want them to get so excited that they work themselves into a possible dog fight, you have to catch that subtle movement toward that and redirect him immediately. As a dog owner, if you know this is a weakness of your dog, you watch for that subtle movement and have a pre-planned response to help your dog successfully pass by. It is similar with us, if we know there is a situation that often gets us worked up, then try pre-planning a healthy response and pay attention to how you are feeling in that situation. If you need it, you have a ready made plan to defuse a potentially stressful situation. Tweak it if you need to until you have a healthy way to handle these times.
- Be realistic too. Not all situations have a quick fix. There are many things in life that we can’t change and some stressful events will take a while to get through. For example, an illness or injury, plan for getting out of debt, saving enough money for a new house or helping someone through a difficult time, etc.
A funny video: Here’s how we should go to work, right?
You might find the post on stress management tips helpful. Take time to go through each one and adapt it to yourself. Make it fun in some way, if at all possible. There are foundational things that help us all, but there are different methods that we can individualize for our situation. Humor and even smiling can go a long way in keeping our stress seem, not more, but less.