In our last blog we defined stress and talked about the toll it can take on us. Now, let’s talk more about what’s causing our stress and start to think about how we respond when stressful situations arise. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Getting a grasp on our stress levels and triggers is the first step to helping our children establish healthy stress management and coping skills.
A stressor is an activity, event, or situation that causes stress. Almost all stressors can be categorized into 4 different types: significant life events, catastrophic events, daily hassles, and ambient stressors.
Significant life events come with a lot of changes and changes can cause… STRESS. Think of that time when you started a new job, found out you were pregnant, or moved to a new area. It would almost be impossible to not feel some sort of uncertainty when your life will soon be changing in a major way. Whether positive or seemingly negative changes are happening, it can be stressful!
Catastrophic events are those unpredictable large scale events that you can’t control. For example, a war or a natural disaster. In these situations, you don’t have much influence over the impact of the event, but it can still affect in you some way. Even if you can’t influence the outcome, you can still manage how you are responding to the stress you’re feeling!
Daily hassles are those situations that seems to pop up out of nowhere. Running late to work, forgetting your lunch, your child missing his or her nap, etc. The list can go on and on! Daily hassles can pile up and become overwhelming if we’re not careful.
Is there any part of your day that you absolutely dread? Is there any way you can make that part more pleasant or a person you could ask to help with it?
Ambient stressors are those things that we don’t even realize are bothering us. They exist in the background of our daily life and impact us without us even knowing. Ambient stressors can include pollution, crowding, noises, or traffic. Have you ever tried to make a phone call when your children are playing in the background? It makes concentrating a little more difficult!
How do you respond to these different types of stressors?
Is there one type that affects you more negatively than the rest?
Now that we know the different types of stressors, let’s talk about how we respond! When we experience a stressful situation, it’s a fact that we are going to respond in some way. It can affect us physically, causing headaches, sick feeling in our stomach, or affecting our appetite. Adults often respond to stress by drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or turning to comfort food. However, stress can also affect the way we behave toward others. We sometimes yell, become angry, blame others, and even shut down when we are stressed. When our stress is high, our patience is low.
It’s important that we recognize the things in our lives that are causing us stress, so that we can start to think about how we can best manage those situations. Understanding this as parents first, will better prepare you to help your children understand and manage their own stress. Stay tuned for our upcoming posts to learn about what’s stressing our children out, how to recognize childhood stress, and how it’s affecting them.