It is not always easy to understand and recognize stress in a situation. It is sometimes difficult to know to which element this anxiety refers. And yet it is necessary to reduce this anxiety, its symptoms and find serenity in everyday life..
1. Stress is normal!
Anxiety is a normal reaction. It is an instinctive reaction of survival, and it allowed to save man from different predators. Today, even if we are no longer chased by mammoths or other prehistoric species, stress allows us to flee a danger (aggressor in the street) or to give us courage to fight it. It can therefore be positive. During an important exam, stress sometimes helps us to mobilize a particularly important energy.
In the right dosage, stress is therefore normal and positive. On the other hand, when it is too intense or too long, stress can have harmful consequences in the long term, whether physical or psychological.
2. The phases of stress
Stress is defined in 3 consecutive phases: Alarm, resistance and exhaustion.
- The alarm phase
The alarm (or alert) phase is the first stage of anxiety. It occurs as soon as the body feels in danger in a situation, with a significant increase in adrenaline. It is at this point that the body prepares either to fight the danger or to flee from it. We must survive at all costs.
Then, in order to mobilize all the energy and organs to face the situation, adrenaline, noradrenaline and other hormones related to stress increase the heart rate, the body temperature, the tension… The body is no longer ready for reflection, but prepares for action.
- The resistance phase
The body prepares itself to face (or flee) the situation, and needs its body to follow it in order to best manage it and save its skin. The hormones that bring sugar into the body act to give the body what it needs to free itself from the environment. The effects of the other hormones released in the alert phase intensify in order to sustain the energy to fight the situation.
- The exhaustion phase
The resistance phase lasts and the body begins to be exhausted. Our body can no longer manage itself, and certain physical or psychological disorders may appear. This is when chronic stress appears.
3. Understanding the different types of stress
Anxiety manifests itself differently in all people. If we know what kind of stress we have, it is always easier to work on the physical sensations, the associated thoughts and the emotions that we may feel. This is why it is essential to understand your stress. To do this, it is important to recognize what type of stress we feel: Is it acute stress or chronic stress and what are the differences between the two?
- Acute stress
Acute stress is an intense stress that we feel at a specific time, caused by a specific event. This event can be stressful either because the event is new, threatening, unpredictable or because you are not in control (CINE method).
Since this anxiety is temporary, so are the symptoms. These symptoms may include difficulty breathing, stomach aches, dizziness, sweating, shaking, etc. Once the situation is over (or avoided), these symptoms disappear.
- Chronic stress
Chronic stress is linked to repeated or particularly long exposure to stressful situations. This stress is very energy consuming and has harmful consequences for health. Indeed, this chronic anxiety decreases the immune system’s defenses, increases fatigue, and increases the risk of certain pathologies (cardiovascular diseases, depression, sometimes even suicidal thoughts…).
To be considered chronic, this stress must be present for several months or years
4. Define the origin of your anxiety
In order to manage and understand stress, it is important to understand and identify the different types of existing stress in order to reduce them. For this purpose, there is a method, which is called the CINE method. CINE is an acronym for the possible sources of stress that are “Weak Control”, “Unpredictability”, “Novelty” and “Threatened Ego”.
In order to understand your anxiety and recognize it, always ask yourself the following questions :
- Do I have control over the situation?
- Is this situation unpredictable?
- Is the situation new for me?
- Is there a threat to my ego?
To best answer these questions, it is important to understand each of these types.
- Low control
You are in a situation where you have little or no control over it.
For example, if your train is delayed due to an accident on the track when you absolutely had to be at an important meeting, this may cause you anxiety.
You can’t figure out how a situation is going to turn out, or if something unpredictable is going to happen.
For example, for your birthday party, you invite two people who don’t always get along very well. You are afraid of their behavior at your party, and you stress about it.
You experience a new situation, a context totally unknown to you.
You are expecting a baby, but it is your first. This causes you anxiety: will you be able to meet his needs? Will you understand him? Will he love you, etc.? ?
- Threatened ego
You feel that some of your values, skills, abilities, knowledge.
You take the driver’s license exam and take one last hour before the final test. Your instructor tells you that you are not ready after all and that you may fail your driver’s license..
It is important not to let stress take over our body, our emotions, our feelings and our life. Taking the time to understand our stress allows us to limit the anxiety that is linked to it.
If your stress generates anxiety attacks, there are solutions to manage them.