Stress is a term that people use to describe their response to a difficult situation. Stress can lean to distress, a negative response to life’s stressors. A little stress can be helpful for some. We’ve all heard the phrase, “working well under pressure.” Some people become more focused or motivated when there is a little stress driving them. Distress can have a negative impact on people’s lives.
Studies show people with ongoing distress have a higher prevalence of health problems, specifically cardiac problems. Stress can cause people to feel depressed or unhappy. In others, stress leads to anxiety. Stress can affect our moods negatively or make us feel overwhelmed. Many emotions, such as irritability, anger, sadness, quietness, etc. are actually caused by stress.
As a therapist, I try to understand the stressors of my clients. I try to help people identify what is causing their mood to be affected. I always ask what they can control or change in that situation, and what they cannot control or change. Sometimes the lack of control of an event is the root of stress. Other times a person has too much to do and becomes overwhelmed. Sometimes grieving a change or new reality is necessary. Other times it’s helpful to learn coping skills to get through the difficult time.
Coping skills are our way of dealing with our feelings. There are negative and unhealthy coping skills such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, over eating, overspending, and spending time with toxic people. There are a lot of positive coping skills that help a lot of people. Example may be listening or playing music, watching uplifting television shows, cooking, going for a drive, playing with pets, talking to loved ones on the phone, drawing, doing puzzles, cleaning, gardening, doing nice things for others, making lists, drinking coffee in moderation, attending a sporting event, etc. People are often drawn to their interests and hobbies because of how they make them feel. Some coping skills are better in some situations than others. For example, some coping skills help us to relax and calm rapid thoughts. Other coping skills distract us from problems we are dwelling on. For example, when we are dwelling on a recent loss, a coping skill that provides a distraction and break from the sadness can be helpful.
Everyone has a level of resilience for the amount of stress they can successfully manage. Some do well with a little stress and pressure driving them towards success. Everyone has a cap for the amount of stress they can successfully tolerate. It’s important to look for signs that stress levels are too high and recognize when coping skills are needed.