What is Psychological Stress?

Psychological conditions are often referred to as stress when an event that a person experiences, or perceives, is identified as interfering with or damaging one’s physical health or emotional well-being. When the challenge posed by the event is perceived (or believed) to exceed the resources and abilities of the individual.


Each of us has the potential to be exposed to stress all the time, and these stresses can affect our physical and mental health.


Possible daily stresses:

  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Finances
  • Academics
  • Employment/Work
  • Family
  • Relocation


How does one recognize stress?

Although stress is common, we should learn to observe and be aware of how stress arises.


  • Physical signs: fatigue, aches and pain, gastrointestinal discomfort, frequent colds, low libido, etc.

  • Emotional signs: inner conflict, impatience, mood swings, sensitivity, irritability, aggressiveness, etc.

  • Behavioural signs: procrastination, a sweet tooth, junk food, etc.


The above are some of the indications of stress that signal for self-care and attention.


How to understand stress?

Stress can be better understood through a combination of 3 aspects: Cognitive, Emotional, and Behavioural.


1. Cognitive:

Individual psychological stress is the product of consciousness and is based on certain cognitive states. Psychological pressure does not exist in the unconscious state. When a person is conscious, psychological stress is not formed if the individual does not feel or perceive any threat from the immediate environment. However, when the environment itself does not pose a threat, psychological stress can arise through an individual’s cognitive misconception of an event as threatening, harmful, unavoidable, or uncontrollable. 


2. Emotional:

Psychological stress is often accompanied by consistent feelings of anxiety. An individual who is experiencing psychological stress is prone to negative emotion such as panic, fear, sadness, anger. However, for an individual who has no negative perceptions towards the source of stress, such negative emotions may not develop.


3. Behavourial:

Psychological stress most commonly triggers a behavioral response. People are not indifferent to psychological stress. An individual may demonstrate one of three kinds of behavioural responses:

  1. Positive reactions in response to the incident (positive reaction)

  2. No action (avoidance)

  3. Negative coping mechanisms (negative reaction)


These reactions may vary from person to person according to the duration or severity of stress. Also due to personality, gender, as well as environmental experiences, cognitive differences will also result in different conceptions of the subsequent severity of stress.


When faced with stress, there are four usual response patterns:

1. Fight

When faced with stress, the stress becomes the motivation of the individual, and the individual will muster all strength to achieve the goal.


2. Flight

When faced with stress, the individual chooses to give up or avoid it.


3. Freeze

When faced with stress, sometimes individuals are unable to think and their minds go blank, and they may also experience passive fatigue and lethargy.


4. Fawn

When faced with stress, the individual shows increased willingness to comply and compromise in order to achieve the goal.


How to deal with Stress?

1. Psychotherapy

Through professional psychological counseling, the correct exploration and understanding of their own, relieve pressure. Psychotherapy for stress is common, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.


2. Medication

It may also be necessary for a psychiatrist to use medication to treat symptoms such as insomnia or more serious depression caused by stress.


3. Complementary Therapy

Others vary from person to person, but can be effective in helping to reduce stress, such as: 

  • Meditation

  • Yoga

  • Massage

  • Aromatherapy

, etc.


How can I handle stress?

1. Identify the stressor

A correct understanding, perception, and attention to one’s own state of self is important to help identify stressor that may impact physical and mental health.


2. Learn to use four different coping patterns flexibly

The four response modes -- fight, flight, freeze, and fawn -- should be used flexibly at different times.


For example: when faced with pressure, face it positively, fight for yourself to achieve victory; however, it is also important to learn to give up when persistence and effort will result in harm. An intermission is a better way to move forward; submitting to pressure and understanding it better is a means for self-reconciliation.


3. Make adjustments in your life

For example: insist on exercising every day, keep a healthy diet, learn to relax through meditation, breathing exercises, and more.


4. Seek professional psychological help

When you are no longer able to deal with the stress you are facing, please seek help from professional psychologists or psychiatrists to avoid the development of more serious complications.


Extension and aggravation of stress

Common mental illnesses attributed to stress include adjustment disorder, acute stress disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


In addition to psychological problems, stress can also cause a variety of physical diseases, such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, peptic ulcer, bronchial asthma, diabetes, obesity, alopecia areata, rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals who experience long-term stress may also have a reduced immunity due to physiological effects.


Stress is actually a part of life. Hope everyone can learn to live in peace with stress by understanding stress, and turning stress into motivation and nourishment.