An Understanding of Stress
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An Understanding of Stress

Stress is a daily occurrance. Understanding the different types of stress can help us deal with it more productively.

As we move away from the holidays, I felt this a good time to consider the topic of "stress". Many of us find ourselves in a stressful situation as we face the dilemma of paying for all of the wonderful Christmas gifts we recently purchased. Perhaps if we examine exactly what stress is and consider how some people deal with it we will find a way of dealing with our own. Either that or we will simply have to add "being more frugal at Christmas" to our list of New Years resolutions.

To begin with, let us look at the different causes of stress. Cause number one: frustration. From a Psychological stand point, frustration occurs when a person is unable to achieve a desired outcome. This can happen when we are unable to speak to a "live" human being on the telephone and are continually faced with speaking to a computer generated list of options that never get to the results we need. This can be quite frustrating indeed and can end in the telephone being tossed across the room in a fit of rage. Now, we are not only frustrated that the original dilemma has not been resolved; additionally we are faced with the problem of a broken telephone. There are, of course, many other reasons for feeling frustrated. The point is it is the result of our inability to accomplish a task or achieve a goal.

The second cause of stress: conflict. By conflict I mean the choices we have to make each day. This can be the source of a great deal of stress. As the American Psychologist Neal Miller ( explained it, conflict can be categorized into groups depending on what our choices are and how we feel about them. If the choice is between things that we like it is considered an "Approach-Approach" situation. An example of this would be when one cannot decide which of their favorite restaurants to have dinner at. The conflict is that we like both choices but we can only have one. The second possibility is that we have the choice between two things that we don't like. "Avoidance-Avoidance" simply means that we have to choose between two things that we would rather avoid . An example of this would be: do I drive to work or take the bus? I hate taking the crowded bus but I also hate fighting the traffic. In this case the impulse is to do neither of the two, but that is not an option. Third we have the choice between doing something or not. The conflict of deciding to pursue a goal that has both attractive and unattractive features. "Approach-Avoidance" means that initially doing something is good but it also has aspects that we don't like. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. All of these areas of conflict can create stress in our lives.

The third cause of stress: change. Life is so much simpler when things stay the same. Even the things we don't like can be dealt with after awhile; it is a lot easier than having to adapt to something new. Think about the last time that your favorite grocery store decided to rearrange their placement of items. It may have been a change for the better and made it easier to find things in the long run but it was still something new that you had to get used to. It is frustrating and can cause stress.

The last cause of stress that I will look at is pressure. We are constantly having expectations placed on us. These expectations can come from others or from ourselves. We are expected to perform in certain ways. This can be the cause of a great deal of stress as it puts us in a position of living up to standards that can be quite daunting. Our boss puts pressure on us to perform at work. A parent may put pressure on their children to get good grades in school. We may put pressure on ourselves to be able to juggle many different tasks at the same time. All of this adds up to the potential of failure which can be catastrophic and plunge us into a state of depression. In the long run pressure = stress.

So, we have identified a number of ways in which stress occurs in everyday life. How do we deal with it? It is not the stress itself that is important as much as the emotional response we have to that stress. In the event that we have stress that is created by frustration, we can have a negative emotional response. That is to say that we can feel angry and, as in my example of the telephone call, we can react in rage. It is our emotional reaction to the stress that is the problem. Likewise when we find ourselves in a conflict situation; we do not like being made to make choices, even when those choices are between things that we like. The very fact that we have to choose one or the other can make us angry. Change can lead to frustration and anger. Pressure can make us resentful of the people that put the expectations on us. How we react emotionally is key to how we deal with stress.

I am sorry to say that I will not be concluding my article with a definitive view as to what emotional response is best. I say this because there simply is no such thing. The emotional response that is going to help a person deal with a stressful event varies depending on the event itself. There are many variables that come into play. What is the importance of the stress. Is it a question of what to eat for dinner or how you are going to put food on the table. I will, however provide some things to consider when deciding on an appropriate emotional response.

What is the importance of the stress.

Is it a life or death situation?

Should I be stressing over this at all

Would getting angry produce any results.

Can I channel my anger into a productive way of dealing with my problem?

In the end it is all about maintaining an emotional balance. One can never avoid feeling all of the different types of emotions. It is impossible to go through life never feeling sad or angry. I wouldn't want to do that any more than I would want to never be happy. Understanding that true inner peace comes through balance of emotions is the beginning of satisfaction in life. Never let any of your emotions gain full control of you and you will be able to handle pretty much anything that life throws at you.


"Psychology Applied to Modern Life 9th edition" by Wayne Weiten (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), Margaret A. Lloyd (Georgia Southern University), Dana S. Dunn (Moravian College), Elizabeth Yost Hammer (Xavier University of Louisiana).

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Comments (7)

A very timely topic after the recent holiday hang over. Great insights about dealing with stress.

Very helpful one, thanks! Voted already so I tweeted. Keep on writing!

This is a very well detailed article about stress and all the aspects of that too. Thank you. Will promote since I am out of votes.

Returning with a well deserved vote up.

A helping tool!

I don't handle stress well. I tend to obsess over things. Excellent work.

Excellent study on stress. Voted.