How Much Stress is Too Much?

I know that stress is part of the human experience, and our bodies are designed to react to it; think fight or flight, but anything in excess is problematic.

How Much Stress is Too Much?It has been awhile since I’ve had the time to sit down and really write an article – which traditionally for me is a great stress reliever. The past year or so has been personally challenging. I’ve been on the highest high (my son and oldest daughter both had beautiful weddings last June), and I felt helpless despair (my youngest daughter’s unexpected surgery) in August. Plenty of other, major life stressors have been put directly in my life’s path over the past year or so, too.

Strangely enough, the majority of the frightening experiences have had blessed results… such as the skilled hands of my surgeon. When I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in September, the surgeon removed over a foot of my colon excising all of the cancer. When we feared my husband was going to bleed to death in February, six days under the caring professionals in the Intensive Care Unit gave him another chance at life.

Life changes! I know that, but one can become overwhelmed by too many of life’s events. Adjusting to unusual demands, especially for prolonged periods, can contribute to physical problems and other illnesses. When faced with several stressors, within a relatively brief period of time, one may find they struggle just to maintain physical and emotional health – and that is where I find myself this summer, tired and overwhelmed.

While I am so thankful for the well wishes and answered prayers, my spirit feels broken. I know that stress is part of the human experience, and our bodies are designed to react to it; think fight or flight, but anything in excess is problematic.

Webmd.com says, “Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” (Really? I had no idea!)

My husband and I are both self-employed; adding to my stress level is the nausea and headache I have just trying to grasp the hit our finances took when we were each forced to be out of work for several weeks these past months.

How do you define stress? What counts? What is just life? Humanstress lists not being able to find a babysitter for a sick child and having to take the day off of work as a psychological stressor. I laugh in the face of that type of petty stress! Then they break stress into two types: Absolute Stressors (everyone freaks out over the same thing, like an earthquake) and Relative Stressors (subjective to different reactions in different people, such as writing a thesis). There is also Acute Stress (imagine an unexpected event like a car accident) and Chronic Stress (dealing day-to-day with a co-worker who has narcissistic personality disorder).

Psychologytoday.com says, “Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it’s an omnipresent part of life.” Stressful incidents cause hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body. Some stress, “acute stress,” can be stimulating, often exciting. “Chronic stress”, stress that is long-term, can impact our health negatively.

I thought it would be interesting to look up The Stress Test and I found a copy of The Homes and Rahe Stress Scale put out by Dartmouth University. It is a simple test where many of life’s events are given a point value relative to the stress it causes; you add up your points and the score tells you the likelihood of illness in the near future. I scored over 600 points!

With a score like that, I’m thinking I should consider planning my own funeral – or, would that be too stressful?

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