What is stress?

Stress is any challenge to normal balance.

Stress is pressure or tension exerted on something (or someone). A state of strain or tension. A constraining force or influence.

Stress occurs in response to a stressor–a thing (person, place, event,…any “stimulus”) that you respond to as a stress.

Ontology (“objective realness”)

Stress is real. While every experience of stress is real and valid, not all stressors are objectively real. Put another way, not all experiences of stress are in response to an event that is actually happening.

Stressors can be actual (‘real’), or imagined. You are in good company if your imagined stressors greatly outnumber your real stressors…this is true for most of us!

‘Real’ stressor examples

  • Getting fired
  • Illness or injury (and healing from them)
  • Losing your wallet
  • Having a fight with your significant other
  • Anything that is actually happening (objectively factual) that is challenging your normal balance

Imagined stressor examples

  • While trying to figure out why you’re not getting ahead at work, you imagine a conspiracy against you
  • Fear of becoming ill
  • Disaster fantasy or catastrophizing about the consequences of your lost wallet
  • Playing out how a fight with your significant other might go (or replaying the argument)
  • Anything that is not actually happening (not objectively factual) that is challenging your normal balance

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