Do you understand stress and how it applies to you?
It’s a word that is used a lot. But what does it actually mean and how does it impact on the way you feel?
In this article we will explore the four categories of stress as defined by Dr Karl Albrecht a leading authority in this area.
Because once we understand what type of stress we suffer from. We can look at ways to overcome it.
Stress: The Scary Word
So, back to stress!
Doesn’t the very sound of that word send alarm bells running through your mind and body? And, if you are struggling with the symptoms of stress then I’m going to bet that you can relate to some of the following:
- Frequent headaches
- Short temper
- Lack of sleep
- Feeling constantly exhausted
- High blood pressure
If you are reading this article then I’m willing to bet that you are suffering from stress in one form or another. But perhaps you have not identified the particular form of stress that is causing you problems.
In my experience, and I include myself in this, we put a lot of our uncomfortable feelings under the main heading of stress. It’s like a big umbrella covering a whole host of different symptoms and causes.
The word itself can be applied to so many situations. You might be stressed with work, home, family, projects etc. The list could go on and on and on. Scary right?
Stress is all around us.
I came across a saying many years ago which said that ‘an unstressed body is a dead one’. I can’t remember who actually said it. It might be true. A little bit of stress in our lives forces us to take action. Or does it?
All Stress Is Bad For You
Well, I’m going to say to you. In my humble opinion, I think that all stress is bad. Yep. Stress does not serve us any purpose.
Which then leads on to why we suffer stress in the first place and how can some people deal with it better than others?
We’ve all met them right. People who always seem so calm and relaxed. Nothing seems to phase them.
It’s because they have begun to understand stress and what it means to them. And then they have discovered ways to deal with it. Before it becomes an issue.
Research To Understand Stress
There has been a lot of research on stress. The first major study was one by Hans Selye who identified two types of stress.
Good stress – which leads to action and
Bad stress – which leads to distress.
But, as you already know I don’t follow this idea. And it would seem that more recent research would also confirm that all stress is bad.
So let’s start with a definition
Definition To Understand Stress
The most commonly accepted definition of stress is as follows:
‘stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” – Richard S Lazarous ‘“Psychological Stress and the Coping Process 1966″ – currently out of print.
That sounds a bit complicated doesn’t it? So let’s break it down.
Basically this means that when we feel things are out of our control, we experience symptoms of stress. An important definition if we are to understand stress, but also how we can then go about surviving it.
So all you need to do is get some control back in your life – easy right!!
Let’s Debunk Fight or Flight
Another phrase that you will be familiar with is Walter Canon’s Fight or Flight syndrome. But again, this is another form of negative stress. Both scenarios are filled with heightened agitation.
What you want to achieve is, ahem – no stress at all.
Now, I would like to point out that pressure is a different thing to stress. I’m sure that you have often felt under pressure to complete work to a deadline, achieve a certain level of performance or even need to get to a certain place on time. These are all everyday pressures that we contend with.
And usually when that pressure leaves you, you feel a lot better. This is because the pressure is in the moment.
This is why I think that it is important to make the distinction between pressure and stress if we are to understand stress.
How To Understand Stress
There is one study that I think has really captured the context of stress. Dr Karl Albrecht in 1979 divided stress into four common types. If you can understand what type of stress affects you most, you will then be able to take action to reduce that stress. You can find out more about Dr Albrecht here
Understand Stress with The Four Common Types of Stress
I will look at Albrecht’s four common types of stress in detail. Once you understand stress under these categories then you can implement the appropriate solutions.
Ah yes. Time. Have you noticed that you are not worried about the amount of time you have, but the lack of it? Me too.
This form of stress is related to you having too much work and not enough time to do it in.
Having deadlines is nothing new in the workplace. Or even at home when we put time pressures on ourselves to get things done. The danger is when this is continual and ongoing. The question to ask yourself if whether you are taking on too much.
Another form of time stress is the opposite of the above. It’s your perception that you don’t have enough to do. In these circumstances, time can drag. Have you ever been in a position when you have felt really uncomfortable that you didn’t have enough activity to keep you occupied?
The different types of time stress if not dealt with can lead to long term problems.
Okay, if you are a worrier, then this applies to you. This type of stress is all about worrying about the future. If you are someone who fears the future as a scary place then you might also be encountering symptoms of anxiety. It happens when you feel vulnerable and powerless.
If you are a worrier, then I recommend checking out my other article Overcome Worry And Live A Happier Life’
This type of stress is made up of all the ‘what if’s’ in life. In fact you are probably not enjoying yourself as you are worrying about all the things that could go wrong. But, worry is a learnt behaviour. So, the good news is that it can be unlearnt.
So, to understand stress as a symptom of worry can be remedied.
This stress is connected to a scary situation. It can be an emergency that arises. It can also be caused by conflict at home or in the workplace. In these scenarios you will feel that it is a situation that you have no control over.
Conflict is not always a bad thing. When there is conflict it can encourage us to find the cause and deal with it. It improves communication and understanding. It can also help you grow as a person by becoming more understanding of different viewpoints and behaviours.
However, conflict which turns into stress may be because you are afraid of conflict and do anything to avoid it.
Most of us don’t enjoy being shouted at. It can cause a great deal of stress. And in many situations of perceived conflict it is this reaction from the other person that holds you back.
But not addressing the issues can lead to simmering feelings of anger and frustration.
If you are struggling with situational stress, it is important to understand stress in this way. It will affect the approach you take in dealing with this type of stress.
This stress is all about meeting people. It can be a certain type of person or a particular group.
Now, before you think that this is a stress reserved for those who are shy or insecure. This stress can also be caused by feeling overwhelmed by the number of encounters you experience.
As an example. I do love being around people. For me, it can really energise me and make me feel good about myself. Many would say that I am an extrovert. By the way, I don’t agree with labels given to extroverts and introverts either. I think that we are all made up of elements of both dependent upon the situation. But I digress.
As I say, I enjoy being around people. But I cannot do it on a frequent basis. Being with people constantly is something that I feel exhausted by. It has nothing to do with whether or not I like someone. For me, I need to recharge my batteries on a regular basis and I do this by spending time in my own company.
I didn’t realise that my reactions were actually stress induced. But to understand stress in this way has helped me understand myself so much better.
There has been a lot of research into the causes of stress. The most comprehensive approach is that by Dr Karl Albrecht who put together the four categories of stress.
To understand stress and what it means to you, consider yourself in the light of the four categories.
To find solutions on how to overcome these different stresses, read the second part of this article called Feeling Stressed? Learn How You Can Overcome It.