I have never considered myself an individual that gets stressed. After the Stress Self-Assessment (18) and the Stress Coping Resources Survey (2.5), I had to do a bit of introspection and I have a few things that stress me out. The potential for failure, not living up to self-set standards, and being a disappointment to my family and friends are all things that control my day to day life. When asked that question during job interviews, I can’t help but chuckle a little. The image that pops into my mind when I think of stressed is a frizzy-haired mom who is cooking with one hand, while consoling a screaming baby in the other, all while vacuuming and moping with her feet. I have just always inadvertently attributed the word “stress” with “lack of control.”
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Better yet, what comes first, anxiety or stress? What is the actual difference between anxiety and stress, if there even is one? According to David Spiegel, an Associate Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, anxiety and stress are similar in symptomology, however stress is due to external stimuli and anxiety is primarily internal. Depending on the individual, anxiety can follow stress or vice versa, however the way they are dealt with is usually the same1.
I pride myself on having a solid support system. When I was younger, I attended therapy sessions to improve my communication skills, mostly between my parents and me. Among the change in hormone levels and teenage angst, having a trusting relationship with my parents helped me, especially in college. I am unlike many of my peers, I have always been independent and never needed my parents to help guide my morals or passions. However, I am never afraid to call them up whenever I am going through adversity to vent my feelings. Most of the time, that’s all I need- someone to talk to for a brief moment and sort all my thoughts. Also, my friends and family typically play the role of the devil’s advocate, so I always have a different perspective to think on.
According to the Stress Coping Resources Survey, the coping mechanism which helps me the most is wellness. I come from a family of long-distance runners; in fact, my 75-year-old grandfather still runs to this day. The way my father deals with stress in his life is through exercise. It’s a great way to increase the levels of dopamine in your brain and clear your mind. Running isn’t for everyone, but I am a firm believer in self-care and treating yourself, whether it be a walk around the block or a spa day, as a good stress reliever. One area of coping I could improve on is spiritual practice. My parents never imposed religion on us, so it has always been a choice of mine to be an atheist. I believe my life has purpose- however, I don’t attribute it to a higher being. If anything, I use my love for science and culture to fill that void and help me make more connections with people around me.
I will work on a few different things to help improve my coping mechanisms. For one, I will start bringing my guard down and letting people in. It’s not that I can’t trust people, if anything I am over-trusting, I just always have a film of apprehension. Secondly, I will stop being so stubborn all the time. I have to learn to delegate and take responsibility for the things I can control and not for the things I can’t. Finally, I will Take things in strides and not all at once. Picking off the things that can be easily dealt with first will help me focus my attention on the larger issue.