Know Your Stress
Read Time: 10 minutes, 14 seconds
Why Knowing Your Stress is Important
Unless you know you have a problem, how do you know you need to deal with it? What would be your first steps? How much of one thing would you need over another? The honest answer is, you wouldn’t. You’d be taking a shot in the dark hoping something works as a possible solution. That’s not how SMaRT works.
In order to truly create a SMaRT plan for yourself you first must Know Your Stress. You need to know the type of stress you’re experiencing, what is causing the stress, and how your body is reacting to that trigger. This is your first step and we’ll take it together.
The Facts About Stress
- A 15-second episode can cause hormonal changes that last for six hours. That infects the whole day.
- 3 out of 4 Americans who report experiencing at least one stress symptom in the last month.
- 45 percent report lying awake at night.
- 36 percent report feeling nervous or anxious.
- 35 percent report irritability or anger.
- 34 percent report fatigue due to stress.
There are Three Types of Stress
There are three different types of stress that impact all of us on a regular basis. They manifest in simple tasks like driving in traffic or waiting on test results to major transitions, such as your kids moving away to making career altering decisions. Whether you’re a supervisor, entry-level, or CEO, when any team member is feeling stressed it directly impacts customer acquisition, employee engagement, production, and profits.
Don’t fool yourself, stress in any area of your life can and does limit your potential for success. Know the three types of stress people experience so you can develop the right plan for you. When you know the type of stress you are under, you will be able to manage it better.
1. Situational Stress
Situational stress is made up from those events, activities, or situations that occur in your daily life that bring out your stress response. Here is what to know:
- Most common form of stress in a person’s life
- Feeling of little or no control over the activities, events, or situations which enhances the stress load
- Use of words like ‘stuck’ or ‘have no choice’ when discussing situational stressors
- Can easily be the cause for overwhelm, frustration, and depression
- Typically has a timeframe structure to the stressor (start/stop, beginning/end, first/last)
- Working Long Hours
- Difficult People or Conflict
- Marriage or Relationship
- Family or Kids
- Staff, Meetings, or Job/Positions
- Bills, Budgeting, or Finances
2. Psychological Stress
Psychological stress is feeling unequipped to handle a situation, or thinking in a negative or exaggerated way about the past, present or perceived future. Here is what to know:
- Most difficult stress to identify and reduce
- Completely self-induced and dependent on your paradigm
- Influenced by your upbringing and environment
- Takes place completely in your mind and manifests through your thoughts and words
- Feeling justified and ‘right’ which limits potential for resolution
- Use of words like ‘you don’t understand’ or ‘it’s true/a fact’ when discussing stressors
- Can easily be attributed to anxiety and anger disorders
- Low Self-Esteem or Insecurities
- Lack of Social Acceptance
- Reduced Self-Worth
- Fears & Doubt
- Self-Deprecating Language
3. Physiological Stress
Physiological stress is the way your body physically responds to stress that creates unhealthy and/or harmful consequences. Here is what to know:
- Most ignored or unnoticed type of stress
- Directly associated with well-being
- Has physical consequences on our nervous, endocrine, and immune systems
- Cumulative effects can cause serious damage to health
- Can be both internal, automatic reactions to stress or external habits used to cope with stress
- Can have short and long term effects on the body
- Alcohol or Drug Use
- Excessive Exercise
- Over/Under Eating
Stress producers are those events, situations, thoughts, or habits you engage in that trigger your stress response. Often times people are unaware of their stress producers, focusing more on the stress response their body is having to the trigger. Common stress producers are someone cutting you off in traffic, kids not following instructions, limited funds to pay bills, smoking, insomnia, or relationship problems.
Create an appropriate plan to counterbalance your response. The most effective tool for this is a stress journal – a method by which you are going to track information. The tool you use to document your answers isn’t important. What is important is that you pay close enough attention to your body and mind to answer the questions necessary to identify your stress producers. For convenience, you can download the JB Partners Stress Journal.
Other options are to use a notepad app on your phone or computer, write it down on a pad of paper, or create a voice recording with your phone.
1. Understand why this is important.
- Narrow the causes of your stress so that you can then prioritize and manage them
- See trends to your day or week so that you can implement appropriate coping methods
- Identify your stress threshold- the imaginary line that divides productive stress levels from those levels that weigh you down
- Get to know effective coping methods for you so you can repeat them again and again
2. Listen to your body.
- Your body tells you when you are stressed
- Examples are adrenaline rush, butterflies in your stomach, instant headache, a migraine, sweaty palms, or a cold sore
- All of these classic signs of stress are your body’s way of telling you something and that it’s not healthy
- Trust your body to tell you what it needs and what’s happening to it
3. Document right away.
- Complete the stress journal as close to the event as possible to get the most accurate data
- The longer the duration between the event and when you write down the information, the higher chance your emotions, thoughts, and bodily reactions will be different
4. Analyze with openness.
- After a week or two of journaling, take a critical look at your entries
- Remove any judgement, excuses, or defensiveness you might be feeling.
- Accept the whole you: how you think, feel, and react to stress
- Learn the facts about you so you can decide if you want to stay the same or change
How we respond to stress producers determines the level of stress we feel, the impact it has on our physical body, and how long our response lasts. Your stress response is the single most important focus for successful stress management. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. You also can’t achieve what you don’t plan for. Plan to respond differently to your triggers.
Your stress response is a complex reaction to events, activities, situations, thoughts, or habits where your body views them as harmful or dangerous to its survival.
There are healthy and unhealthy ways your body responds to stress. Below are just a few of the more common responses.
Healthy Stress Response
- Behavioral – Assertiveness, Time management, Prioritization
- Biological – Normal sex drive, Homeostasis, Balanced thyroid production
- Physiological – Energy, Healthy digestive system, Overall feeling of wellbeing
- Psychological – Cognitive reframe, Optimism, Ability to focus
- Emotional – Joy, Engagement, Peace
Unhealthy Stress Response
- Behavioral – Overeating, Clench/grind teeth, Exaggerated actions
- Biological – Release of cortisol, Adrenaline rush, Intense crying
- Physiological – Skin Rash, High blood pressure, Impaired immune system
- Psychological – Memory loss, Pessimism, Decreased concentration
- Emotional – Depression, Anxiety, Anger
Your stress response is controlled by your interpretation of the perceived stress (threat). Two people can be experiencing the exact same situation and based on their perception and interpretation can have two totally different responses. One person can actually have an unhealthy response that can linger for hours after the event or situation passes, causing them to miss opportunities and often speeding up the stress cycle, getting to stress threshold quickly. The other person could have a completely healthy response and be prepared for the next possible stress producer immediately, allowing them to maximize every opportunity presented to them.
The first step in controlling your stress response is to increase your awareness of your current response cycle. Document everything from the behavioral to emotional. Your goal is to interrupt your current pattern of response and you can’t do that if you don’t know what it is.
There are three types of stress; situational, psychological, and physiological and there are unhealthy and healthy stress responses. Discovering how you react to stress can lead to a healthier response.