People used to have bad nerves and nervous breakdowns, suffer
from neurasthenia and neuroses or were just plain nervous - and
it was something we preferred not to talk about. Today we call
it stress, and people are talking and writing about it all the
Stress states are individual, and only you can know exactly what
causes strain on you and what your stress states are: what your
red environments are, and how you experience your red thoughts,
emotions and bodily sensations.
But what follows is a general description of what stress is.
The red stress state is also called negative
stress or distress (like dis-ease).
It is negative, uncomfortable, and unpleasant, and hence motivates
us to find solutions to the problems that have arisen.
Stress refers both to the stress
states we are in, and also to
the stress factors: stressors, that trigger the stress state.
Stress is triggered by and is inherent in the interaction we
have with our environment.
A stressor is typically a situation or event we experience negatively,
but can also be negative thoughts about a difficult situation,
such as an exam we have to take in the near future.
In addition to psychosocial factors, there are also physical
A stress state is a state involving significantly negative cognition,
emotion and body state.
When we get out of balance, we can lose composure and control,
and possibly break down or go berserk.
Once stress has been triggered, cognition is negatively affected.
Concentration and attention is reduced, we have poorer memory,
and a state of confusion can arise.
Stress thoughts are normally negative, automatic thoughts that
arise without us being aware of them. They consist of emotional
evaluations and interpretations. They usually run through our
heads very quickly. They are subjective, general and categorical.
Continuing negative thoughts can maintain our stress.
We all have different thought patterns that can make us vulnerable
and reduce our stress threshold.
You might try to notice your own, and see if you think you understand
them and can do something about them.
Below are some typical characteristics.
If we are sensitive about how other people treat us and what
they think about us, we readily believe that we are being misunderstood,
disregarded, overlooked, offended, cheated, derogated or that
we are generally not given enough consideration, and have trouble
coping with these things.
We can also have some negative basic precepts, for example, that
you must, should or should not be a certain way. This can cause
a lack of self-confidence, a reduced stress threshold, and lead
to us not being able to assert ourselves and say "yes" or "no",
An example of a negative set of thoughts about yourself might
be: I am not good enough, I must not make mistakes, I will never
be able to do it, I have to be perfect and everyone has to like
Worries and concerns are also typical for the stress state.
Stress emotions are intense negative emotions. Every negative
feeling of a certain intensity can arise in a stress state
and prompt a particular reaction and action. A particular
line of thought is linked to every feeling. You could try to
a list of your stress feelings and the thoughts and situations
they belong to. You can do that here: recording
Negative emotions, and the three basic stress emotions in
particular (anxiety, aggression and frustration) are described
in the section
on emotion. The acute emotions are very uncomfortable, but
normally pass quickly and do not lead to any physical health
Anxiety can feel like an insecurity, nervousness, or unrest,
but can rise in intensity to panic, which feels like you are
about to faint or go mad. Strong anxiety leads one to avoid
or flee from certain situations.
In addition to real situations, for example if you are about
to get hit by a car, anxiety also exists in many irrational
forms, from fear of spiders to fear of people (social phobia).
thoughts and actions are also common in anxiety states.
Aggressive emotions vary from a light anger which quickly passes,
to rage, or long-term states of bitterness and hate. Aggression
is a behaviour that covers a very broad range: from drive and
normal assertiveness to dominance, competitiveness, defensive
aggression, revenge, punishment, bullying, violence, and sexual
and pathological aggression. In addition to guilt, shame and
regret where the aggression is directed towards ourselves.
Acute anger, for example in relation to a conflict which quickly
passes, has no impact on health, but long-term, pent-up anger
and habitual hostility is harmful to health.
It is common behaviour to suppress aggression. Social adaptation
and pressure from others can be too strong and too inhibiting,
for example, in a competitive work situation. Pent-up aggression
can weaken your health and lead to chronic muscle tension and
Hostility as a personality trait together with a strong competition
mentality and excessive ambition in work contexts leads to
time pressure and stressed behaviour. These characteristics
type A behaviour, which maintains a long-term, even chronic,
stress state that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Measure your hostility level here: The
Frustration/despair is the third basic stress emotion. A frustration
reaction, capitulation, defeat reaction, type
is triggered when a situation is perceived as overwhelming
and is accompanied by emotions like despair, powerlessness,
desperation, and grief.
Lifestyle stress is due to the fact that we are daily exposed
to a number of negative influences, including a quantitative
over stimulation/overload, i.e. too many negative influences
and too much we have to overcome compared to our resources.
We use energy and do not get a chance to recharge. It is also
accompanied by a qualitative under stimulation: what we are
doing is boring, arduous, and something we do not feel like
These factors produce a frustration state, which if it continues
day after day can develop into a fatigue
depression, also called
Measure yourself for burnout here: Burnout Self-Test.
Quantitative and qualitative under stimulation, for example
during unemployment, can also lead to a frustration reaction.
During stress, the body responds with an alarm
which hormones, the autonomic nervous system and immune defences
are stimulated. The intention is for the body to be mobilised
for fight or flight. Long-term stress weakens the body and
can, in combination with other factors, lead to illness.
The physical symptoms experienced can include: tension, unrest,
sleeping difficulties, palpitations, chest pains, headache,
quavering voice, flush, dry mouth, hot flushes and sweating,
dizziness, hyperventilation (shortness of breath), choking
sensation, stomach/bowel symptoms (nausea, pain, diarrhoea),
and tiredness, loss of appetite and reduced sexual desire.
You can test yourself for stress: check
your stress level.
And here you can read more about Life
conditions and stress.