What is stress?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress is “the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors. Stress involves changes affecting nearly every system of the body, influencing how people feel and behave” (APA, 2021). Stress is a normal human reaction that we all experience. Our brains and bodies are designed to experience stress and react to it. It is this reaction to changes or challenges (stressors) that stimulate your body and mind to produce physical and mental responses.
Are there different kinds?
Not all types of stress are bad or even negative. In many cases, stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid and deal with life circumstances or danger. Everyone has heard of the “encountering the bear in the woods example,” where you would suddenly be able to run much faster than you ever thought you could. However, stress becomes negative and a problem when it is ongoing. Some of the different types of stress that you might experience include:
- Acute stress: Acute stress is a very short-term type of stress that can either be positive or more distressing; this is the type of stress we most often encounter in day-to-day life.
- Chronic stress: Stress becomes negative and a problem when stressors continue for longer periods without relief or periods of relaxation. Chronic stress is stress that seems never-ending and inescapable. Chronic stress can also stem from traumatic experiences and childhood trauma.
- Episodic acute stress: Episodic acute stress is acute stress that seems to occur regularly and becomes a way of life, creating a life of ongoing distress.
There are many common triggers for stress. They range from everyday occurrences to traumatic events and can be both positive and negative. Feelings of stress are triggered by external events or internal thoughts. External circumstances that trigger stress commonly fall under these categories:
- Major life changes
- Environment/ the world around us
- Unpredictable events
- Workplace relationships, demands, and workloads
- Social and relational issues
- Overwhelming responsibilities
- Health Issues
While Internal triggers include:
There might be one big thing causing you stress, but stress can also be caused by a build-up of small pressures. This might make it harder for you to identify what is making you feel stressed, feel your stress is not justified, or explain it to other people. Additionally, we are all different, so a situation that does not bother you at all might cause someone else a lot of stress. It is most important that you recognize symptoms of stress, acknowledge them, and find ways to manage them, including seeking support if needed.
Are there certain age groups that experience stress more frequently than others?
The four generations are often defined as the following: Millennials (18- to 33-year-olds), Gen Xers (34- to 47-year-olds), Boomers (48- to 66-year-olds), and Matures (67 years and older).
According to the APA, Millennials suffer the highest levels of stress in the nation. In an assessment measuring stress, the millennial generation scored a 5.4 (on a scale of 1 to 10), compared to the national average of 4.9. Yet, research also points to stress becoming both harder in some ways and easier in others to deal with as we age, with Matures and Teens having the most challenges in managing stress. Whatever age, stress is a part of life. Learning to recognize it and finding healthy ways to manage it is what is essential in coping with stress and preventing the ill effects it can have on our minds and bodies at any age.
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