There are countless studies, scientific tests and medical theories on stress and you only need to search Google to find them. Often we can find ourselves reading into these and stressing out over the root causes and how to fix them.

This article should not at all be taken as medical advice or scientifically proven evidence, but if you’ve ever wanted to identify the main stress factors and consider ways to manage those levels then this may be something to try out.

This of course is my own theory on stress levels and it is something that I try and live by. So let’s get to it:

1. Normal Stress

Normal Stress is exactly what it says on the label. It’s normal and it’s something everyone experiences almost on a daily basis. It’s a fact of life we cannot avoid but I find it comforting when I tell myself this as it helps me stop from overthinking it or looking too deep into it. Normal Stress is something we experience when we’re running behind on our schedule, we need to be in two places at once or perhaps we have more paper work on our desk then we would desire on a Monday.

The fact of this is it is unavoidable and we need to take this as it comes at us. Often it is caused when we are caught off guard or we are dealing with something unfamiliar. Our brains don’t like it because it disrupts the status quo. This stress will probably be much more difficult for people with learning difficulties and conditions like autism, as they often like to maintain a particular routine. But it is okay and we need to remember that.

Normal Stress can be caused by many events and especially in the adult world when it comes to falling out with friends or even ensuring we have enough in our accounts to pay for a bill. It can be challenging to maintain ourselves but it is important to combat this stress and some of my favourite methods include:

  • Prioritising what is causing me the most stress and dealing with it as soon as possible. The quicker it’s done the better the relief.
  • Financially – try and resist the urge to invest in something that may temporarily be great but will make your month or even year harder. I still make this mistake today and that’s because we’re human and we like to occupy ourselves but if you are about to spend £60.00 on a night out, when you could save it for something more important then why worsen your situation when you could make it better? Spend your money when it’s worthwhile (I am still practicing this and its even harder when living abroad on a rep wage).
  • Admit mistakes and ask for help – if you’ve cocked up at work and it’s out of your hands then this situation will only escalate. If you have too much to do in one day and your manager is asking you if you can finish it by 5pm then be realistic with your limitations. You won’t be fired for saying no and you will likely benefit from learning where you went wrong.
  • The most important one – remind yourself that this is normal and accept it as it is. A mind can focus when it’s thinking more clearly and realistically.

2. Positive Stress

This one is my favourite and for good reason. No one would ever have expected ‘positive’ and ‘stress’ to be in the same sentence.

Positive Stress is something I think we experience when we are working towards something positive. When we are being productive. The end goal is going to benefit YOU. Whether this is emotionally, physically, financially or in terms of career.

Perhaps you are setting up your own business, building that six pack, setting your eyes on that promotion or even saving towards a new home. Whatever it is, what we desire or want to achieve will often leave us in situations that require us to work hard, under pressure, to deadlines or to the max of our limits. At the end of the day, you will be left with a productive and rewarding feeling that motivates us more and more.

However, Positive Stress is like drinking. Sure, one or two pints of the finest ale or lager can be quite refreshing but sometimes we want more and then boom – next thing you know, you’re face first on the floor and you’re left with a banging hangover that wipes you out for days. You get the picture folks.

So how do we ensure our Positive Stress isn’t overwhelming us? Here are my own personal tips:

  • Again, be realistic and manage your expectations and limitations. Do as much as you can with what you can but don’t fill up the glass to the brim as you might just spill it.
  • Take breaks to refresh yourself. This is a good opportunity to reflect on what you’ve achieved so far and you’ll find distance makes the heart grow fonder. Treat it like the person you want to date. If you’re overly keen then it will go tits up. Your motivation will soon force you back into it.
  • Take your time and do everything in your own pace. If you want to stay out till 4.00am then starting jagermeisters at 4.00pm is not going to be a good idea and you will soon trip up (okay, enough with the drink references). To avoid mistakes or a clash in your progress, take your time and aim to get it right.
  • Make sure your wants don’t prioritise your needs. Hard work is needed but ensuring you’re sleeping, eating and keeping in line with other commitments will help you avoid unnecessary stress. This will also develop you and benefit you in your pursuits of ambition too.

3. Negative Stress

The ultimate weapon of self destruction and the stress factor you want to avoid like the plague. Negative Stress is caused when any of the above factors, whether combined or alone, overwhelm you to a point in which you stop focusing on the objective and start focusing on yourself.. and not in a good way. It’s the factor that causes you to doubt, overly-criticise and sometimes hate yourself because you feel like a failure. This is the kind of factor that leads down darker routes of depression, anxiety and even suicide. It quickly turns from stress to distress.

You may be focusing so hard on a business start up that you’ve plunged yourself into uncontrollable debt. You may be telling yourself that three days at the gym in a week isn’t good enough and start despising yourself. I’m not saying don’t work hard because hard work is everything but so is balance and that is more important sometimes.

And if someone is able to manage more than you at one time then don’t allow that to defeat you. It doesn’t matter how fast you run a marathon as long as you can finish the race.

You ideally wish to avoid Negative Stress but that’s not always possible. My only tip for this is what I’ve tried and done – you need to take a step back, look at your circumstances and realise what is making you unhappy. This requires true honesty and time.

Once you have identified the problem. Ask yourself; “Can I fix it?”

99% of the time, the answer is yes. I quit an £18,000 job for a very low paying one. That’s not possible for everyone but I firmly believe there is always something you can change in your life to help your situation.

If your answer is no, then you need to accept that it is not within your control and move forward to bring in additional changes that will make life that little bit more simple.

Whatever factor above you experience – never allow it to consume you and accept that we will all encounter stress, even the happiest or wealthiest of people.

If you have any tips or your own personal stories then please submit them to me or comment on this post. Alternatively, I hope this post helps and I would love to hear from you.

– Tommy Dunn

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