The ABCs of Stress
What Makes Situations Stressful?
Stress is a normal part of life. It can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry or anxious. And what is stressful to one person is not necessarily stressful to another.
In small doses, stress can be good because it may motivate you to be more productive. However too much stress is bad. Prolonged stress can leave you vulnerable to physical and psychological illnesses. Persistent and unrelenting stress may lead to anxiety (a feeling of apprehension or fear and unhealthy behaviors, like overeating and abuse of alcohol or drugs. What follows is a more detailed description of the “ABCs” of stress and how social workers help their clients deal effectively with stress.
A: The Activating Event
The activating event is whatever happens that gets your stress going. It could be called the AGGRAVATING event because it almost always is something that disturbs you in some way. The activating/aggravating event can be something that happens in your life, something that you worry might happen.
Activating/aggravating events lead you to think and feel uncomfortable, and can cause you to have negative thoughts and feelings. If you do not deal with these negative thoughts and feelings, you are unlikely to resolve them, and as a result may end up feeling bad about yourself.
B: The Beliefs
When an activating/aggravating event occurs, you will have reactive thoughts and feelings, even if you do not think you do. There is a possibility that during difficult situations your thoughts will be negative, bringing up unpleasant emotions, such as frustration, disappointment, anger, rage, or fear. If you are unaware of having these feelings, you may act out your feelings in negative ways, rather than dealing with them effectively and solving problems that they may cause.
Our thoughts and feelings operate in a circular way, in which feelings lead to thoughts and thoughts lead to feelings. The thoughts we have about a situation will be based on the beliefs we carry from our families and other life experiences we have had.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Social Workers.
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