What is psychological stress?

Psychological stress refers to the emotional and physiological reactions experienced when an individual confronts a situation in which the demands go beyond their coping resources. Examples of stressful situations are marital problems, death of a loved one, abuse, health problems, and financial crises.

This answer is based on the source infromation from the the National Cancer Institute.
Kathy Sowder
Psychological stress is created when a person feels unequipped to handle a situation or thinks in a negative or exaggerated way about the past, present or perceived future. In other words, we can create stress by the way we think. One person may feel stressed or overwhelmed by a situation, and another may not, or may even see that same situation as a challenge or an opportunity. The first person is likely to create stress for himself by thinking negatively or obsessing about what can go wrong, or how terrible that would be. The latter person will be a lot less stressed. We have choices about how we think about and perceive almost everything.
Lisa Palmer
Marriage & Family Therapy

Usually when we have psychological stress we can experience a variety of symptoms including--anxiety and nervousness, panic attacks, physical sensations of anxiety, tendencies to predict the worst, conflict avoidance, muscle tension, tremors, headaches, low/excessive motivation. Typically, this is an indication of heightened basal ganglia activity in our brain! The basal ganglia are a set of large structures toward the center of the brain that surround the deep limbic system and are involved with integrating feelings, thoughts, and movement. This part of the brain is involved with setting the body's "idle speed", or anxiety level. When the basal ganglia are overactive, such as with anxiety, people tend to be overwhelmed, freeze, or become immobile (in thoughts or actions). Of course this can affect many different aspects of life-career, performance, relationships-and just contribute to more stress!

If you are suffering from basal ganglia overload, there are some skills you can hone to take control over anxiety, and reclaim your Self! A good psychotherapist can be really helpful with designing interventions especially for you that will allow you to naturally enhance these general areas:

  • Learn how your mind tricks you into amplifying situations leading you to believe negative thoughts that aren't true.
  • Develop skillful thinking tools to defeat automatic negative thoughts, and prevent them from getting the best of you!
  • Do Eriksonian Hypnotherapy; Learn the art of Self-Hypnosis; Try Meditation
  • Integrate the 20/40/60 Rule. When you are twenty you are worried about everyone thinks of you. When you are forty you could care less about what anyone thinks of you. When you are sixty, you realize people are too busy thinking about their own lives to think about you. So, learn how to stop letting other people's expectations get the best of you!
  • Learn how to deal with conflict. "Conflict phobia" can set your relationships and life up for more anxiety and turmoil!
  • Develop effective ways of communicating, setting boundaries, being mindful, knowing and acknowledging your needs, and setting priorities.
  • Watch your nutrition and get proper rest. Hypoglycemic episodes make anxiety much worse, and remember "rest and digest". Rest not only helps your body heal physically, but your mind heals too!

Remember-the mind is a powerful tool! Whatever you are struggling with the mind has the ability to change. Anxiety and stress can be defeated!

There are two basic kinds of stress: psychological stress and physical stress. An infection would be an example of physical stress, whereas someone yelling at you, being demeaning, and threatening abuse are all example of psychological stress. Psychologic stress does have physiologic responses that can lead to physical symptoms and disease and so should not be thought of as not having a huge impact on disease. For example, diabetics under psychological stress may have trouble keeping their blood sugars under control.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.