Stop The Stress (PT. 1): Know Your Enemy
Stress is an often overlooked aspect of life. Many people think the level of stress is just a fact of life that cannot be avoided. I am here to tell you that this is not the case. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. It is a symptom of day to day life that can be reduced through conscious effort.
The negative effects of stress on your quality of life are often underestimated. Too much stress can have serious consequences.
The consequences of stress include:
- Wreaking havok on your emotional equilibrium
- Degradation of physical well being
- Narrowing of your ability to think clearly
- General lower quality of life
Combined, these consequences can handicap your ability to deal with the turbulence of day to day life. Stress from one thing can bleed into every aspect of your life. So what can we do?
To lower the level of stress in your life, you first need to identify the source of your stress. Major events like changing jobs or a breakup can be easy to identify but it’s harder to identify how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contribute to the whole.
In Margaret Heffernan’s book Willful Blindness, Margaret explains that people will often avoid addressing a problem they are fully aware of in an attempt to preserve the way of life they are used to. People are inherently averse to change. You may be aware that a work deadline is a source but this is out of your control. Maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the demands of the job which are actually causing the stress. In the fight against stress, you are your greatest enemy.
To identify the underlying cause of stress, ask yourself some questions:
- Do I rationalize the stress as temporary?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of work or life?
- Do I blame external factors or view stress as normal?
Once you have pinpointed the root cause of your stress, you can start taking action. Realizing you have control over the stress in your life is the cornerstone of stress management. In part two and three of this series, we will talk more in depth about the negative impacts of different sources of stress and how to effectively deal with them.