What is Stress and Anxiety?
“For peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the universe.”
Stress and Anxiety are common responses to situations that have caused you to feel threatened or have upset your sense of OK-ness in some way. When you sense danger, whether it’s real or imagined, your defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process know as “fight-or-flight” of the Stress and Anxiety response.
The Stress and Anxiety response is the body’s way of helping you to survive. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, the Stress and Anxiety response can save your life – giving you extra strength to protect yourself, for example, or causing you to put on the brakes to avoid an accident.
The Stress and Anxiety response also helps you prepare to meet many of life’s challenges. For example, it can keep you attentive during a presentation at work, sharpen your concentration when needed, or energize you to get things done.
However beyond a certain point, the Stress and Anxiety response stops being helpful and starts producing significant damage to your health, your mood state, your thinking, your relationships, and your ability to function normally. It is important to keep in mind that this response is all happening automatically and mostly outside of your awareness.
Recognizing Your Stress and Anxiety
It’s important to learn how to recognize your Stress and Anxiety levels. The most risky part of Stress and Anxiety is how easily increasing levels can sneak up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it places you outside of OK-ness and functioning out of your primitive brain,. The signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety excess can easily be missed. The states of Stress and Anxiety affect your mind/body system, your reactions, and not everyone experiences the Stress and Anxiety response in the same way.
The following list contains some of the common signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety. The more signs and symptoms you recognize in yourself, the closer you may be to Stress and Anxiety excess.
Keep in mind that signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety excess can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the signs of Stress and Anxiety, it’s wise to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are Stress and Anxiety response related.
Because of the pervasive harm Stress and Anxiety can cause, it’s important to know your own limits. Precisely how much stress and anxiety is “excessive” differs from person to person. It is essential to keep in mind that even moderate levels of Stress and Anxiety will tend to make you function out of your primitive brain and increase the likelihood of angry reactions.
Some Common Causes of Stress and Anxiety
Some kind of challenging event or situation often triggers the Stress and Anxiety excess. A trigger often acts as a ‘last straw’, since in most cases the stress and anxiety has been accumulating over sometime. Among the most common precipitating events are:
- A significant personal loss. This can be the loss of a significant person through death or relationship breakup, the loss of employment, a financial loss, or the loss of physical health.
- A significant life change. Any turning point in your life cycle, such as getting married, expecting a baby, going off to college, changing jobs, making a geographic move, and so on.
- Stimulants or recreational drugs. It’s not uncommon for Stress and Anxiety to develop after too much intake of caffeine. Even more common is the appearance of Stress and Anxiety excess in people using meth, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, high doses of marijuana, and withdrawal from sedatives and tranquilizers.
Additional causes can operate in the here-and-now to keep Stress and Anxiety States going. Most of the practices you will be learning in this module will help you to deal with the ‘maintaining’ causes. The primary maintaining causes are:
- Anxious self-talk. Self-talk is what you say to yourself in your own mind. You engage in an internal monologue much of the time, although it may be so automatic and subtle that you don’t notice it unless you step back and pay attention. Statements you make to yourself beginning with the words ‘what if’ as in ‘what if I have another anger episode?’ Can create much of your stress and anxiety. This type of negative self-talk anticipates the worst in advance. The more common term for this type of thinking is simply ‘worry.’ You can learn to recognize your Stress and Anxiety promoting self-talk, reject it, and replace it with more supportive and coping statements.
- Withheld feelings. Holding in feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, or even excitement can contribute to a state of free-float stress and anxiety. Free-floating Stress and Anxiety is when you feel vaguely anxious without knowing why. You may have noticed that after you let out your angry feelings or have a good talk, you feel calmer and more at ease. Expressing feelings seems to have a distinct physiological effect that results in reduced levels of stress and anxiety.
- Lack of assertiveness. To express your feelings to other people, it’s important that you develop an assertive style of communicating. Assertiveness, in a few words, is expressing yourself in a direct, upfront manner. It involves a healthy balance somewhere between submissiveness, where you are afraid to ask for what you want at all, and aggressiveness, where you demand what you want through coercion or threats. People who are prone to Stress and Anxiety excess often tend to act submissively. They avoid asking directly for what they want and hesitate to express strong feelings, especially anger. Often they are afraid of imposing on others or of not maintaining their self-identity as a pleasing and nice person. They might be afraid that assertive communication will alienate the other person.
- Absence of self-care practice. Common to many people with Stress and Anxiety excess is an underlying sense of insecurity. Such insecurity arises from a variety of conditions in childhood, including parental emotional neglect, abandonment, abuse, over protection, perfectionism, as well as from patterns of alcoholism or chemical dependency in the family. Since they never received reliable nurturing as children, adult survivors of these various forms of deprivation, often lack the understanding to sufficiently take care of their own needs. Unaware of how to care for themselves, they may have problems in the face of life demands and responsibilities. The absence of a self-care practice serves to perpetuate Stress and Anxiety excess and can lead directly to anger management difficulties. The most lasting solution to parental deprivation is to become a good parent to yourself.
- Fast-paced lifestyle. Think carefully for a moment about the place where you live and your everyday life: your country, your culture, your town or city, your daily habits and customs. What is the pace of your lifestyle? Is it rushed and fast-paced most of the time, or slow and tranquil? A self-care practice for managing your Stress and Anxiety will help reduce your vulnerability to life’s problems in general. Mastering the concepts and practices offered here in connection with relaxation, exercise, coping statements, functional thinking, and assertiveness will all contribute to managing your anger more effectively.
- Lack of meaning or sense of purpose. It has been my repeated observation that people experience relief from Stress and Anxiety when they feel that their life has meaning, purpose, and a sense of direction. Until you discover something larger than just your personal self-gratification – something that gives your life a sense of purpose – you may be prone to feelings of boredom and a vague sense of confinement because you are not realizing all of your evolutionary potential. This sense of confinement can be a potent breeding ground for Stress and Anxiety excess and recurrent anger issues.