Individual Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft
Many people use the terms “stress” and “pressure” interchangeably. Even dictionary definitions don’t help a whole in drawing distinctions between the two. But if you think about how people use the words in everyday conversation, you start to see some subtle differences.
Pressure has some positive associated connotations. When an athlete or performer performs well in a tense situation or in front of a large crowd, they’re a “pressure player” — which is a pretty good thing, It reveals strength of character, an ability to perform for high stakes. Most people, moreover, find some pressure quite manageable. Even when you complain about pressure, you might subtly acknowledge that some pressure is ok — when you say, for example, there’s been too much pressure at work this week. Some is ok – too much is not okay.
Then there’s stress. It’s hard to think of an everyday phrase with some positive connotations. I’m stressed out. The stress has gotten to him. I can’t take this stress.
Pressure is an outward force compressing you. Stress comes from inside, tearing you apart.
Rachael Ajmera, writing for Healthline, says “Stress can be defined as the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. It can have mental and physical consequences.
“At one point or another, most people deal with feelings of stress. In fact, a study from 2015 found that 59% of adults reported experiencing high levels of perceived stress.”
Stress is common, all right, and you probably can identify it pretty easily when you experience it. But there are also some symptoms that you may not recognize as stress-induced. Ajmera offers the following list:
- Decreased energy and insomnia
- Changes in libido
Since the mind and body are so interconnected, it should also come as no surprise that there are often physical effects of stress. Again, Ajerma presents a list of notable consequences, some of which you may not be aware of:
- Chronic pain
- Frequent sickness
- Digestive issues
- Appetite changes and weight gain
- Rapid heartbeat
If the source of your stress is your work, then you may not be able to affect what it is that’s the stressing you out. So, short of finding new employment, you need to find ways to help you deal with it. If everyday reality is the source of your stress, you also don’t have much of an ability to fundamentally change things. So, whatever its cause, We turn again to Ajerma for a handy checklist of ways to help you manage stress in a healthy way:
- Taking breaks from the news
- Taking breaks from your devices (computer, phone, TV)
- Getting adequate exercise and sleep
- Taking breaks to allow your body to rest
- Increasing nutrient-rich foods in your diet
- Doing deep breathing exercises
- Avoiding substance use
- Talking with friends, a trusted advisor, or a therapist
- Building community though faith-based organizations or activities you enjoy
Nothing magic here, just good sound advice. But the point is — if you’re stressed out, you may not be able to eliminate the source, but you do have the power to alleviate its effects. Take control — and you’ll improve both your mental and physical health.