Admitting defeat and acknowledging our vulnerability is never easy. We avoid showing our weaknesses because we don’t want to be pitied or taken advantage of, or worse, criticized.
We all have problems and experience challenges throughout life. The thing is, people’s stress response varies from one individual to the next. What may seem easy for us won’t be so for the next person. Conversely, we may find it hard to cope with problems others appear to manage or overcome easily.
But what, exactly, is stress?
When the body senses danger, threats, or a sudden change or shift – whether real or imagined – it goes into defensive mode. This reaction is automatic and is referred to as a ‘flight-or-fight’ or stress response.
If, say, we’re walking in an unfamiliar forest and we hear screams and growls, our quick response would be to run away from the perceived place of danger, or perhaps face the source of danger to save a stranger. In this instance, with either decision, stress can save a person’s life.
The same can be said when we hear about people being able to lift someone bigger than them during an emergency situation, such as a fire or car accident. So, in essence, stress isn’t necessarily bad since it serves to protect us (and others) from impending danger. It also helps keep us centered, alert, sharp and mentally-focused.
Do you remember how you managed to win in a school competition or present yourself as the perfect candidate at a job interview? You were under a lot of stress, which made you over-prepare – in the end, you got what you wanted, right?
However, when stress goes on unmanaged, it can cause real harm, not just physically but also emotionally, mentally, and socially. It can even lead to financial ruin when the person under stress is no longer able to function in life.
Chronic stress and its consequences
When stress is prolonged, everything else follows. We feel the full weight of emotional pressure; we feel like we have lost control of our lives. Each day that goes by seems meaningless; we become anxious and feel defeated.
Some people get sick, lose sleep, suffer from headaches and all sorts of body aches and pains. To cope, some people turn to alcohol, smoking, and drugs, thereby developing substance dependence or addiction. Others withdraw or become apathetic, while some eventually succumb to depression.
You don’t have to go through these things, though.
Talking about stress and how it affects you
As mentioned earlier, opening up about our problems and weaknesses is never easy. Even if we have family and friends we think we can trust, opening up about stress is difficult.
However, just knowing there is someone you can talk to about things that upset you is a good thing. You need only take the next step – reach out. By talking to someone you trust, you can:
• See the problem in a new light or with a fresh perspective
• Sort through the problem that’s bothering you
• Understand the situation more clearly
• Vent or release pent up emotions and tension
• Realize that someone else is there to support or help you
• Find new options, approaches or solutions you didn’t think of before
Keeping problems to yourself is unhealthy, and things like this have a way of creeping into all aspects of life, leading to emotional outbursts, fractured relationships, and social withdrawal.
If you have difficulty identifying someone you can talk to about your problems, you should consider speaking to a counselor. Whether you need individual, relationship, or family counseling, talking to a professional counselor can help.
Whatever the matter is, whether it involves personal issues, family, schooling, or career-related problems, consider speaking to a health professional. This way, you can gain valuable insights into managing stress and will be able to make lifestyle and behavioral changes to improve your situation.