Facts About Objective Stress Management
If someone asked you to make a list of stressful situations, you wouldn’t have to think very long: there are plenty to choose from.
Stressful situations aren’t good or bad – per se. A situation can feel extremely stressful but have a positive outcome. And what feels like “bad” stress to one person might be “good” stress to another.
What is Objective Stress Management?
Stressors surround us and can be catalysts for unexpected change or sources of extreme grief. But accepting the inevitability of stress doesn’t mean we have to give ourselves over to it or take on more than we can handle.
Objective stress management is the ability to identify a stressor and proactively adapt through a psychophysiological response.
Stressor vs. Stress Response
Stress is defined as the body’s physical, mental, and emotional response to a particular stimulus called a stressor.
The stimulus, or “stressor,” is an internal (chemical or biological agent) or external (environmental condition, event) stimulus causing stress to an organism.
Type of stressors
Psychogenic stressors have a psychological origin. They include mental events that generate stress, like fear or worry, and they are related to the individual appraisal processes.
Neurogenic stressors involve a physical stimulus that affects the body. It could be physical pain, a fight, frostbite, or anything objectively stressful on the body.
The stress response is what happens after we encounter the stressor.
What does the stress reaction look like in the body?
Our bodies desperately want to stay in balance (homeostasis). When thrown out of balance by stressors, our bodies respond with a stress response. The primary actors in stress response are the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands – together referred to as the HPA axis.
Here’s what the stress response looks like:
1. The body is exposed to a stressor.
2. The hypothalamus in the brain secretes hormones into the pituitary gland.
3. The pituitary gland reacts by secreting adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
4. ACTH reaches the adrenal glands, which respond by releasing cortisol into the bloodstream.
5. Cortisol (aka the stress hormone) causes a widespread “stress” response in the body – affecting all kinds of bodily functions, including our breathing, sweating, appetite, sexual desire, attention, mood, immunity, and more.
Triggering the Relaxation Response
To objectively manage stress, we must adapt to stress with strategies that return the body to balance (homeostasis). We can restore balance with various methods of cognitive and behavioural therapy, including:
Self-talk: Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. Some self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions created by a lack of information. Self-talk is entirely responsible for forming our reality. If your self-talk is primarily positive, you will have overall positive thoughts. Cruel, hurtful self-talk will lead to negative thoughts and a negative outlook on life.
Create Positive Thoughts: Positive thinking doesn’t help you avoid stressors, but it helps turn them into positive experiences. A 2012 study found that people with generally positive thoughts processed stressful situations as lessons and meaningful experiences. These stressors served as catalysts to find meaning and purpose in life.
In comparison, people with negative thinking feel more victimized by stressful events and view them as something they must endure. Their lives do not become more meaningful after stressful events.
Other benefits of positive thinking include:
1. Increased life span
2. Lower rates of depression
3. Stronger immunity
4. Better psychological and physical well-being
5. Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Here are some examples of positive vs. negative thinking:
Relaxation tactics: To restore balance in the body, you need to trigger a relaxation response – aka the opposite of the stress response in the body.
A few relaxation tactics include practising breath work, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. The use of apps and other trackers to capture neurofeedback and biofeedback metrics can also help foster a relaxation response. They train the subject to recognize objective physiological signals and respond accordingly to bring the body back to balance.
Want to learn more about your stress response? Download a free trial of LUCA today and take the mystery out of stress management.