What is Stress?

What is Stress?

Most people have an idea of what Stress is by how it makes them feel, (i.e., tired, anxious, overwhelmed, fearful at times, etc.) but few can define it clearly.

This is probably because we all have different reactions to stressors in our life; where some seem to “freak out” about a particular situation; others appear relatively unaffected by that same situation. One person may do really well taking a math test without much stress at all while another person may get really stressed over the same test.

Most people think of Stress as something that comes from outside of them, from their environment somehow. We say things like, “work is stressing me out”, “my kids are stressing me out”, or “my boss is stressing me out”, etc.

We think that the other person or thing outside of us has to change for us not to get stressed.

Is this true? In reality it is the opposite.

Richard Lazarus, a psychologist in the 1960’s, defined Stress as:

“a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands (of a particular situation) exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”

Therefore, Stress occurs within us whenever we think we don’t have what it takes to meet the requirements or expectations of something that is being asked of us or we are asking of ourselves. So, we get “stressed out” when our insecurities or feelings of limitation make us think we can’t handle certain situations.

Most people don’t realize how much damage Stress can cause internally if gone unchecked. Stress either creates or exacerbates our dysfunctional thoughts/beliefs, feelings and behaviors (i.e., mental/emotional issues such anxiety, depression, anger, physical issues such as heart problems, chronic illness, and even early death, and avoidant behaviors such as drinking, drugging, overeating, smoking, etc.).