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Stress, by definition, is a physical and mental state of anxiety experienced when one’s demands appear to exceed the personal and collective resources that are available. We respond to stress using one or both of these instinctive mechanisms:
  • Fight/Flight” – this is a rapid, reactive, “reptilian-brain” survival response that is triggered by release of hormones causing increased pulse and oxygen levels, as well as sharply focused hypervigilance and a shifting of blood to the body’s core. It occurs when an immediate threat is perceived. Situations involving this type of stress response would be on the battlefield, accidents, attack, etc.
  • General Adaptation Syndrome – this is a more generalized response mechanism to stressors of a longer duration. It’s much more related to the individual’s perception of the stressful situation or environment and typical arenas for this are a difficult social event, a demanding workplace, and tumultuous global events.

In either stress response, the individual’s conscious or unconscious evaluation of the degree of damage they think the situation represents, and how closely their resources meet the demands of the situation will determine the resultant level of stress and anxiety. Clearly, both of these responses require solutions that can minimize the physical and mental consequences of stress, as well as offer strategies to consistently reduce it. These collectively are called stress management and have become increasingly necessary in today’s fast-paced world

Analysis Reduces Anxiety
Often, our excessive anxiety and stress levels are the result of feelings of being overwhelmed, “swamped,” burdened, put upon, etc. Indeed, that can sometimes be the case. It’s very helpful, however, to examine the elements of a particular stressful situation with objectivity in seeking the available stress and anxiety relief solutions. This is a key component in a stress and anxiety management “toolkit’ and these are some of the methods used:

  • A Stress Event List/Diary – one innovative method is a stress event list; this is a list of events or situations which caused stress and anxiety. The frequency of occurrence is noted and each of them is given a score based on the degree of anxiety generated by the event. Another useful means of gaining perspective is an anxiety diary; this day-to-day stress log is for gathering information regularly and routinely, over a period of time. This helps in separating common, routine stresses from occasional, more minor irritations and annoyances. This will assist in uncovering the stress patterns in our daily life.
  • Positive Stress Asset Evaluation – this is a listing of strengths, assets, attributes, support, networks, and core capabilities. These are the means we have of dealing with, and sometimes overcoming, stress and anxiety; they are often forgotten in the rush of coping with an anxiety-laden situation.
    Some of these would be:
    • Skills – career, trades, goals achieved, degrees/certifications, hobbies/avocations, etc.
    • Social – friends, family, support groups, clubs/organizations, professional networks, contacts, etc.
    • Personal Growth – spiritual/religious, inner work, counseling, supportive relationships, education, etc.
    • Physical/Material Assets – health, vitality, age, financial, real property, business ownership, etc.

Using these two bodies of information as part of a stress management program necessitates reviewing them both individually and in synergy together. Looking at our stress list or anxiety diary in conjunction with our asset list not only reveals stress patterns we’ve accumulated over time, but also situations when we were able to bring our assets into play to reduce stress or relieve anxiety. This shows us that a significant degree of stress management is possible by effectively using our skills and assets. While some stress is decidedly unavoidable in our lives, it is often a “condition exacerbated by skewed perception.” A realistic “pen to paper” presentation of our stress problem and our strength-driven assets will prove to be first and foremost in our arsenal of stress and anxiety management solutions.
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