Becoming Aware of Stress in Your Life
People do not need to study the biology of stress to gain a practical understanding of how it affects them. If people start with the understanding that stress is an event or a force that upsets a balance, they can begin to see some of the ways that they might be affected by stress. Seeing clearly where undesirable stress occurs in one’s life is the first step in managing it. One can examine how stress affects his or her body, emotions and thoughts.
Physical or External Stress
Physical or external stress, stress which affects the body, is the most straightforward and easy to identify. When people work too hard, stay up too late, or eat and drink too much, they feel the direct physical results of these actions. They are more likely to sleep poorly and feel tired and ill.
Some external stresses seem beyond one’s control. The stress of a job that is boring, unrewarding or excessively demanding can make one miserable and more prone to illness. However, it is more difficult to correct this kind of problem than it is to eat a healthy diet or get more sleep. When one has a medical illness, even if it is relatively minor such as a cold or the flu, it becomes increasingly obvious how this physical stress affects his or her sense of well-being and quality of life. Clearly, a major or life-threatening illness creates stress in many different dimensions of one’s life. Some physicians think that the stress that accompanies sickness is one of the major obstacles to becoming well.
Psychological or Emotional Stress
Psychological or emotional stress may seem less concrete, but it has an equally definite effect on an individual’s health and well-being. Being able to identify areas of psychological stress is challenging, but important since they may have an even greater impact on one’s happiness than physical or external stress.
When people are lonely, depressed or unhappy, they are more likely to become sick and less likely to enjoy the things that should give them pleasure. When people have any type of stress that exceeds what they can comfortably manage, they are much more likely to become depressed and anxious.
It can be difficult to identify an internal or psychological stress. Although these inner stresses often make people feel uncomfortable, it is easier to blame something external for the discomfort. It takes a considerable amount of psychological strength to be able to consciously handle this kind of stress instead of being swept along with it. Often, the first step it is to look clearly at one’s own feelings and honestly ask oneself what it is that causes inner difficulty or pain.