Let’s look at a few ways that stress develops. Certainly stress results from being placed under pressure. However, I want to talk about three ways that stress can turn into anxiety.
The first is the acute stressor. This comes in the form of an unexpected unpleasant or even traumatic event. Diagnosis of a severe illness, death or injury of a loved one, even an unexpectedly horrid day at work (a public reading-out by the boss, for example) generates high anxiety rapidly.
This kind of stress and its resultant anxiety rocks us back on our heels. It can overwhelm a person’s anxiety coping mechanisms rapidly. Bolt-from-the-blue shocks can’t be prepared for ahead of time, and spending one’s life worrying about these kinds of events is far more harmful than helpful. Still, sudden abrupt unpleasant events can send even the anxiety-resistant person reeling.
Next comes chronic stress, which provokes a constant low level of anxiety. Unemployment, ongoing illness, ongoing psychological issues, and a great deal of other situations can cause chronic stress. In this case, the situation is indeed going to be enduring for a long time, and while people can adapt, such adaptation tends to drain a person’s mental and emotional resources. This is a sort of “death by a thousand cuts” type of anxiety, caused by the small, but seemingly endless string of stressors. Caregivers often experience this kind of stress.
Finally, insidious stress, which slowly accumulates over time. Unlike chronic stress, which very obviously perpetuates anxiety over time, insidious stress gets “stuffed down” and finally erupts into severe anxiety disorders plus other mental/behavioural issues. This stress is commonly experience by soldiers in a combat zone. While they’re prepared to put their feelings and their stress to the side while performing vital functions, this stored stress is still around, waiting for the immediately life or death pressure to be off, then it erupts. Profound anxiety is the result.
It’s paradoxical. Soldiers report being afraid in combat, but don’t report the anxiety that comes later, and indicate it confuses them as to how they can feed so anxious, nervous and stressed when back at home, no longer in a war zone. Others who must endure prolonged periods of vast pressure and must shunt their feelings aside in order to survive report the same issues.
Wherever stress may be coming from, it is important to check it, as it can slowly seep into all aspects of your life.