What is it about these six letters strewn together that says so much, but so little. Especially, of what it is we are actually experiencing? It’s a nebulous word and is ill-definable at most moments. It is used similarly as a catch-all word like weird, peculiar, strange, and even interesting; which ultimately never leaves the listener or reader truly understanding what is truly felt and meant underlying the “one-word” wonder!! However, at the same time, it IS the quick, summarized answer that we ALL often provide to oneself or others, when asked our thoughts or opinions about things. The word “stress” seems to be the catchall word to explain what we are feeling when we become overwhelmed by our environments, be it people, tasks, or emergent situations. It’s the first word that seems to come to mind when we are feeling that things occurring too much, too fast, and/or too confusing to absorb and manage. We just simply say, we’re “stressed out”, “under stress”, or “too stressed” to handle it. When we are feeling such immense stress, we generally and ultimately don’t take the time to slow down to truly identify all that is happening in our minds, our bodies, and our spirit at those moments.

In clinical terms, psychiatrists, psychologists, and clinical social workers take great effort in their work with their clients and patients toward this identification of all the “stressors” that have been impinging on their psyche. In my profession, we seek to learn the various psycho-social stressors impacting one’s life which is causing them to lose functionality in their educational, occupational, daily living skills, and social parts of their world. These stressful life events, be them small or large, bring with them a full range of emotional states. They can be situational moments of frustration and / or feelings of anger that can occur at home, school, work, or anywhere for that matter, and can last for a few minutes or possibly a few days. They could also be harrowing life events which could include experiences with past traumas and major grief, which would understandably leave a person struggling with those stressors for much longer. No two people know exactly what another is experiencing while under stress; unless these issues are shared openly and in a safe, empathic environment to avoid defensiveness and isolation behavior. Many people chose to shelter away from others when stressed out. They often say they don’t wish to burden anyone else with their internal struggles or feel that no one else will be able to relate or understand. Gathering oneself, regrouping, centering, and meditative states are all healthy ways to begin to regain self-control over one’s overwhelming thoughts and emotions. There are numerous, varying methods one can employ to begin to bring a calmer spirit, and clearer mind to the table as one deals with life’s stressors.

Problems tend to happen when one isolates for too long, or doesn’t wish to find internal motivation to reconnect and re-engage with the world around them. This usually leads to more increasingly serious to severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, and substance abuse behavior. Unfortunately, at their extremes, these intensely stressful thoughts and feelings can turn ugly, with a loss of self-control. Violence can ensue toward those close to you-family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. or be turned inward leading to suicidal thoughts , gestures, and full-blown attempts.

I know I’ve brought this up in many of my previous blogs – however a proactive, preventative solution to managing one’s stress levels is to have a reliable, self-chosen set of coping skills what are easily retrievable and doable. I, from experience, believe that the process of developing an effective relapse prevention plan, the necessary tools, and the skill set to achieve it, are critical to manage stress! And if applied early, tends to greatly reduce the negative impact of the stressor on one’s psyche, body, and spirit.

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