By Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo
There are many things that teens worry about and this worry may turn to anxiety or it may remain as a worry. I find there is a continuum where stress is concerned and worry is another word for a type of stress.
Stress, when viewed on a continuum, looks like this: eustress—–stress—–distress.
Eustress is the type of stress most associated with nervousness that precedes something important like an exam, the first day at a new job, or asking your girlfriend to marry you.
Eustress is good stress or anticipatory stress and life includes lots of eustress that comes from daily interactions.
Stress includes things such as bills being due, an argument with your mate or children, or work difficulties (not getting the promotion you applied for). Stress in life is unavoidable, as life has a way of having its way with us. Stresses can begin to get out of hand for adults, children, and teens. Add to the everyday challenges an illness of a family member, a geographic move, a break-up in a relationship, loss of a job, bankruptcy, a major accident, or being unable to find a new job and you will soon find yourself rather buried in stresses.
Stress, although normal, has an accumulative nature. It builds up over time. We cannot always remove existing stress before new stress is piled on. This is particularly true in the current economy. It is also true when people mention they were diagnosed with an illness such as cancer and then find themselves going through a divorce and then find they don’t have health insurance. It can be a bit more than a person can handle.
Key Points Regarding Stress:
- Stress is apart of life occurring in both positive and negative events.
- Reactions to stress differ from individual to individual.
- Some people feel stress more in their bodies, some in their thoughts and some in relation to their feelings.
- Distress is an emotionally upsetting influence.
- We can learn to effectively manage stress and to eliminate certain distress.
- Coping skills are life skills for handling, dealing with or managing stress and distress.
Distress is when it becomes more than you can handle. The stresses are too many or too intense. Fragmentation takes place inside the person. How we know distress is taking place is when emotional upset has become a constant companion. People start removing things from their life because they cannot manage those things. In distress people remove things where it seems the most obvious to them that they can let something go. It is not unlike what is currently taking place in the economy. People are cutting down on groceries, going to the movies, or visiting the doctor. These are not always the wisest places to make a cut.
Distress can become collectively known as psychological stressors. This is when stresses have become emotionally upsetting and the feelings are pervasive and not easily eliminated.
Psychological Stressors (Distress) can combine with Traumatic Events and lead to Losses.
Losses may lead to Feelings of Powerlessness and Helplessness which leads to more Loss.
Loss may then lead to Depression.
The depression I am speaking about here is functional depression or depression that evolves as a function of the things going on in your life.
The above scenario can continue for a time and if it does there is a breakdown of coping skills.
We all have coping skills even though we may be unaware we are using them. When coping skills begin to break down it becomes obvious that we are undergoing an experience of more loss.
Effective coping skills for you might be watching a movie, talking to someone, spending time with friends, looking for the humor in a situation, petting the dog, listening to music , exercise, or reading a good book.
When coping skills begin to break down there is erosion that takes place around these areas. You are going to less movies, spending less time with friends, ignoring the dog, exercising less, and not talking to people in general as much.
When coping skills are becoming ineffective or unhealthy the humor may be impossible to find, the book is no longer being read, the dog is exiled to the back yard for longer and longer periods of time, and you are not watching movies or speaking with friends. Here you have little time for yourself or too much time with no energy to use the time for enjoyment. Feelings of loneliness, sadness, depression, and being unkind to yourself are characteristic of ineffective coping skills.
Ineffective coping skills looks like a house that a bulldozer has begun destroying. No time with friends, no books to be found, the dog has been given away or ran away, and you may feel lost and confused. Thinking may have lost clarity and direction. You may feel very alone and like a leaf blowing in the wind. You may not be sure who you are anymore.
Coping skills breaking down and becoming ineffective or unhealthy is one of the first signs that you have moved into depression. It all begins with stress.
In the next blog we will talk about depression and suicide-risk. We will then talk about what you can do about all of this in Part Three.