Knowledge of he common stressors can help you determine where your stress is coming from and take steps to minimize it.
The last post on stress and symptoms looked at some of the physical symptoms that people may experience when coping with stress. There are also several psychological symptoms that will alert you to the fact that you are feeling stress. These include frequent anger or irritability, anxiety, depression, hopelessness or feelings of helplessness. Stress also negatively affects memory.
Another indicator of stress is if you have a chronic health condition. In the post on the health effects of stress I noted that adults who have had stressful childhoods are more likely to suffer chronic disease. This type of stress may be repressed and so more difficult to identify.
Identifying Your Stressors
There are several ways to identify the sources of stress in your life. One useful tool is the Holmes Stress Scale. Created in 1967 by Drs Holmes and Rahe, the scale is based on a survey of 5,000 medical patients who were asked if they had experienced certain events in the last year. Each of the 43 common stressors on the scale was weighted according to its gravity, and the scores for all the events experienced were totalled into a final score. Scores of 300 or over indicate an 80 percent chance of illness or injury within the next year, with a 50 percent chance for scores between 150 and 300.
Once your stressors are identified, you can then take action to either avoid them or minimize their effects. If neither of these is possible, just knowing which events are common stressors can help you avoid adding more stress to your life.
Another way to identify stressors that are specific to you, is to look at your life systematically and identify all the areas of dis-ease – in other words the things you would like to change if you could. To start I suggest that you look fairly generally at the most common areas of psycological stress – work, relationships, and finances – and also at the body. The latter can be a source of psychological stress if you have pain, illness or symptoms that you find distressing, or have a body you don’t love. It can cause physical stress as a result of poor diet, lack of exercise, or the effects of addictions such as drugs, alcohol or smoking
Look at each of these areas and ask yourself how satisfied you are with it on a scale of one to ten. It is a good idea to have a notebook to write your answers in, so you can keep track of changes over time. Although people often think that they will remember, they rarely do. Once you have the number describe what this area looks like. What is happening in this area? What do you enjoy about it and what do you dislike. What would make it a 10? What could you do to help make that happen? Then choose one area, and one action that will be a baby-step towards making that area a 10.
Taking Action Against Stress
You may be tempted to take a giant leap, but resist the temptation. Be a tortoise not a hare. Small steps taken regularly reduce the chance of overwhelm and make it more likely that you will take the action you have chosen.
If you are totally overwhelmed, suicidal, or don’t know where to start, then you should seek professional help. Just be aware that while medication may make you feel better for the moment, it will not help you to become more stress-resistant over time. So if medication is required, it should be combined with some sort of talk therapy that will help you learn new skills.