In a world full of stimuli and challenges, stress has become a significant part of our lives. In this article, we delve into the psychological aspects of stress so that you can better understand where it comes from.

Many people perceive stress as something negative, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. As long as you handle it well and it doesn’t persist for too long, stress can have a positive influence on you. Therefore, it is useful to have some knowledge about it. Walter Bradford Cannon (1871-1945) and Hans Selye (1907-1982) were the first stress researchers. Some of their insights are described below.

Stress is healthy: it can enhance concentration and sharper information processing.

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People exhibit the same fight-or-flight response as animals in a sudden stressful situation.

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Stress can be categorized into positive stress (eustress) and negative stress (distress).

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The Seyle General Adaptation Syndrome

This is a model by Hans Seyle that shows what prolonged stress does to us. The model is divided into three phases:

  1. Alarm Phase
  2. Resistance Phase
  3. Exhaustion Phase

During the alarm phase, a stressful situation occurs. You feel shocked, causing a slight decrease in resistance. This lasts only briefly because the line then shoots straight up towards the resistance phase. This is due to our nervous system’s fight-or-flight response. You become very alert and build resistance, but it does come at the cost of your immune system. If the feeling of stress persists for a long time, you enter the exhaustion phase. Here, your resistance to stress decreases, and you become more susceptible to illness.

A Glimpse Behind the Curtain

For example, you’re experiencing high work pressure. External factors are causing you stress. Think of an impending deadline, a difficult task, or chaotic collaboration with your colleague. Did you know that you make this situation much more stressful in your head than it actually is? Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What external factors are causing this stress?
    For example, an impending deadline. 
  2. What might you unconsciously do to intensify this feeling of stress?
    For example, multitasking, causing you to do things only half-heartedly.
  3. Take it a step further. What do you do to get in your own way?
    For example, not asking for help when you know you actually need it.

Do you see how you’re making it harder for yourself than necessary? Remember that you often make situations worse in your head than they actually are! So, try to consciously think about what is happening in your head in moments of stress.

Feeling stressed at work? Neuropsychologist Erik Scherder gives you 5 handy tips to reduce it!

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