CAUSES OF STRESS
YOU HAVE INHERITED
A PROCLIVITY FOR STRESS
learned how to show affection (or how not to show affection) from
your parents. You learned certain public behavior by watching one
or both of your parents in social situations. And you learned that
certain situations most often produce, at least in your home, certain
predictable patterns of behavior.
stress is inherited. You have learned to behave in the same way
as someone you admired or depended on. This is called “modeling.”
Just as fears often “run in the family,” so also do
stress that has been transferred from parent to child is sometimes
intensified by the inherent physical makeup of the individual. Two
children may both exhibit stress when exposed to the same stimulus—a
noisy environment, for example—but one child may react to
it more severely because of individual inborn differences.
STRESS BECAUSE YOU HAVE A TYPE A PERSONALITY
definition of a type A individual fits you if you are:
Prone to over achievement
• In the habit of forcing oneself to work toward unrealistic
• Consistently competitive
• Constantly aware of time and prone to rushing
• Quick to exhibit anger
list may seem to characterize a dismal individual, one who is hopelessly
anchored in undesirable behavior. However, some of the most interesting
people you know may fit into this category and seem to function
quite successfully. What may not be evident is the core of the Type
A’s problem. He or she is addicted to stress. The stress constitutes
a lifestyle and acts as a precursor of illness, as has been shown
by recent studies linking Type A personalities and heart attacks.
The hostility factor coupled with cynicism are the two key elements
that make this group more susceptible than others.
STRESS BECAUSE OF FEARS, AWFULIZING, AND “SHOULDS.”
on the nightmares of life or catastrophizing, worrying
about the worst possible alternative, can produce continual stress.
If you catastrophize or awfulize, you expect some form of disaster
or danger at every turn. If your sister’s husband and your
neighbor’s husband leave their wives to marry younger women
with whom they work, you figure it is only a matter of time before
your husband extends his office hours.When you experience any pain
or discomfort, it is magnified. A benign cyst is a deadly tumor,
indigestion is food poisoning, a regular evaluation process by your
employer forecasts the loss of your job.
are nearly as disruptive to your emotional well-being. Shoulds consist
of the rules you believe that you and others must live by. The trouble
is, you make these rules up yourself. Then you try to follow them
as if they are laws, and when you can’t or don’t, you
feel as if you are a bad, disgusting, inferior person. You punish
yourself with condemnation.
are a few of the shoulds that commonly plague people.
I should be the perfect lover, friend, parent, teacher, student
• I should not make mistakes.
• I should look attractive
• I should keep my emotions “under control” and
not feel anger, jealousy, or depression.
• I should not complain.
• I should not depend on others, but take care of myself.
probably have some of your own favorite shoulds you could ass to
this list. Unfortunately, your shoulds not only prevent you from
having an accurate perception of yourself, but of others as well.
You think that the people you know should behave according to your
list of rules, and if they do not, they are willfully disobedient,
uncaring, lazy, sloppy, stupid, or lacking in compassion and love.
Living with this invisible list of burdens is unnecessarily debilitating.
YOU MAY EXPERIENCE
STRESS BECAUSE OF INESCAPABLE PAIN OR DISCOMFORT
stress results from a real physical cause, such as chronic pain.
Accompanying the physical sensations are ones of an emotional nature.
When you experience any chronic disorder, it is also common for
you to begin to feel “set apart” or isolated. You may
feel searing guilt or anger for always being the “one who
suffers,” and eventually you may feel extremely depressed
by your helplessness in the situation.
STRESS BECAUSE YOU REPRESS AND REFUSE TO ACCEPT IMPORTANT FEELINGS
SUCH AS HURT, ANGER, OR SADNESS
Some people try to entirely deny
any negative emotion, viewing such responses as if they were the
very root of self-destruction. These people will go to great lengths
to keep from acknowledging their true feelings. If the negative
emotion is instead acknowledged and experienced, its intensity and
duration are reduced.
Assume for a moment that you lose
someone close to you through death. Your sadness is accompanied
by depression. But you give yourself permission to mourn and put
aside life for awhile. You reflect upon the past and evaluate the
future. You sort out your feelings, rearrange them, and feel sorry
for yourself. While you are doing this, other energies and emotions
are allowed to rest. Even though you may not realize it, your mourning
is releasing a major cause of stress that could, if repressed, become
an influential factor in your life.
As a further example, imagine that
a husband is irritated by his wife’s devotion to her career
and her careful attention to job-related plans, procedures, and
details. At first, the husband is merely annoyed and doesn’t
exhibit any frustration. Next, he begins to feel as if her job is
in direct competition with him. Then, finally, he decides—still
without revealing his feelings overtly—that he is definitely
number two and his wife’s job is number one. At home, he continually
feels under stress. Every phone call is an outside threat to his
private life. Every business meeting his wife attends seems to be
a pleasurable outing for her from which he is excluded. Instead
of facing up to his perception of what is happening to his marriage
and discussing his feelings with his wife, he allows his hurt to
accumulate and intensify. This produces an extremely stressful situation
that constitutes a domestic volcano, ever-ready to erupt.
STRESS BECAUSE YOU ARE EXPOSED TO A SPECIFIC INCIDENT OR PARTICULAR
STIMULUS THAT TAXES YOUR PHYSICAL ABILITIES OR YOUR MENTAL OR EMOTIONAL
CAPABILITIES BEYOND THEIR LIMITS
be some portion of your job stands unfilled, or it may be a part
of your marriage that is not functioning effectively. Perhaps other’s
expectations for your attention or affection seem too high.
stress may have several combined causes. When examined individually,
they seem insignificant; yet, if they occur all at once, they seem
monumental. Murphy’s Law is hard at work when you first learn
that your car won’t start. Just when you thought you were
going to have to find another mode of transportation, the engine
turned over. When you reach your office, you found that your secretary
had not finished photocopying an important report. Then the lunch
date you had scheduled with a prospective investor was canceled
without reason, and your afternoon routine was interrupted by requests
and calls that seemed, for the most part, trivial. When you returned
home, your son told you that he needed a ride to basketball practice.
Your husband’s plane was more that an hour late arriving,
and by the time you both pulled up in front of a local restaurant
for dinner, you felt as if you were a time bomb.
YOU EXPERIENCE STRESS BECAUSE YOU HAVE A DIETARY DEFICIENCY
foods may cause your emotions to soar one minute and hit bottom
the next. Sugar, caffeine, and alcohol are closely associated with
stress. A lack of Vitamin B complex greatly contributes to irritability.
The foods high in B complex vitamins are found in whole grains,
brewer’s yeast, liver, and legumes. If you are under severe
pressure and you have poor eating habits or a “hit and miss”
system for balancing your diet, the stress that you would normally
feel will be magnified. It is not easy to determine which comes
first—the dietary deficiency or the stress—because stress
causes the depletion of B complex vitamins and the lack of B complex
IF YOU ARE FEMALE,
YOU MAY EXPERIENCE STRESS AS A PRODUCT OF PMS
Current estimates show that 33 to
50 percent of American women between the ages of 18 and 45 experience
Premenstrual Syndrome. This amounts to between ten to fifteen million
women. The physical and emotional symptoms of PMS commonly show
themselves seven to fourteen days prior to the onset of the menstrual
period. The physical symptoms include sugar or salt craving, fatigue,
headaches, weight gain, bloating, and breast tenderness. The emotional
symptoms include anxiety, confusion, temporary memory loss, and
mood swings from euphoria to despair.