This stress definition tells you if your stress is a health threat


A STRESS DEFINITION can help us understand if our mental and emotional wellbeing is undermined by stress.

Because once you know exactly how stress is being defined by various groups of professionals, such as therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, you can observe your own stress symptoms and decide if you maybe suffer from stress.

A logical next step would be to find ways to reduce your stress in a responsible and lasting way.

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Mindfulness is a natural tool to keep stress levels low and enjoy life without worrying and fretting. Download my free ebook and discover how my no-nonsense mindfulness approach can help you keep stress at bay. You’ll feel more balanced and resilient within just a week.

Let’s look at the stress definition of these famous institutions

The Oxford Dictionary tells us this about stress:
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

The American Psychological Association defines stress as follows:
Stress is any uncomfortable, emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders (2003) states:
Stress is a term that refers to the sum of the physical, mental and emotional strains or tensions on a person. Feelings of stress in humans result from interactions between persons and their environment that are perceived as straining or exceeding their adaptive capacities and threatening their well-being. The element of perception indicates that human stress responses reflect differences in personality as well as differences in physical strength or health.

Wikipedia uses the following description to define stress:
Stress is a biological term which refers to the consequences of the failure of a human or animal to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats to the organism, whether actual or imagined. It is the autonomic response to environmental stimulus…it includes a state of alarm and adrenaline production, short-term resistance as a coping mechanism, and exhaustion. Common stress symptoms include irritability, muscular tension, inability to concentrate and a variety of physical reactions, such as headaches and elevated heart rate.

So now you know if your stress is a health problem?

I don’t know about you, but none of these definitions seems very helpful. I have suffered severely from stress for many years, and I wouldn’t have recognised myself in a stress definition like the ones I have quoted.

How stress crippled my life

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Hi, my name is Marisa Garau and my international bestsellers, e-courses, articles and blog posts are helping thousands of people in Europe, US, Australia and New Zealand to reduce their stress and lack of fulfilment. Not just for a few months, but for the rest of their lives.

I never took stress seriously

I worked in advertising, running my own agency, and accepted stress as a normal downside to my work. It simply was part of the deal, and I saw all my fellow advertising creatives falling victim to the same unhealthy amounts of stress. We didn’t think about it and never even discussed it.

In order to cope with chronic stress, some of us were drinking, doing drugs, or partying hard in the weekend.

My response was to work harder and harder to complete all the advertising jobs that needed to be done, plus the hundred other jobs that come with running a company. I was desperate to make a success of my business and was always pushing myself to do more and better. Of course, this perfectionistic, stress-creating attitude had a severe impact on my health, plaguing me with autoimmune disorders and reoccurring depression.

Mindfulness ended my stress habit

Only after serious depression and burnout I understood that I had gone too far for too long. I quit my agency and gave up my successful career. I followed the mindfulness training and started a new life free of anxiety and stress. All my emotional and physical complaints vanished and I never again consulted a psychologist or specialist.

My definition of stress

After the experience of going through chronic stress for so many years, I came up with a more comprehensible stress definition.

Stress is that restless, nagging feeling that you are not doing everything you should, and that you could have done better. It’s a melting pot of constant concern, deep guilt and the nagging fear that one day people will find out that you are a total fraud.

The key to avoid stress

Thanks to mindfulness I was able to make a deep, inner shift. I suddenly saw that stress is caused by our very own thinking process. It’s important that we learn how to keep this process under control as it relentlessly produces negative, frightening thoughts which only weight us down and make us feel bad about ourselves.

Tip: also read my in-depth article on stress

Don’t wait, but act

If you find that you often have that restless feeling in your stomach that you’re not good enough or not doing enough to be deserving of appreciation, respect and love… it’s stress. Don’t accept it as a normal fact of life because stress will slowly but steadily sabotage your wellbeing and self-confidence, causing severe mental and physical disorders.

So develop the healthy habit of checking if you recognise yourself in my stress definition. If so, follow the next steps in order to keep your stress levels low and create inner calm and balance.

Step 1: Check your thoughts

If you feel stressed – a cramping feeling in your stomach, shaking hands, tight shoulders, a dry throat – sit down for a moment and ‘watch’ what’s going on in your mind. Stress is not caused by certain circumstances… but by your mind’s judgement that some circumstance is stressful. So stop wasting energy by blaming the grossly unfair circumstance, but observe what negative thoughts your brain is producing. Those thoughts can range from ‘I might get fired’ and ‘She should never have said that to me!’ to ‘I’m such a loser’. Do you see that these thoughts are filled with your own judgements, and are not necessarily the truth?
Step 2: Accept your thoughts, no matter how stressful they are

Once you have observed the content of your stress-inducing thoughts, you actively accept it the way it is. Don’t judge these thoughts. They are harmless as long as they’re just thoughts. Take a deep breath and accept whatever your mind comes up with. Those thoughts are here anyway, so don’t fight them.

Step 3: Don’t get overwhelmed by the content of your thoughts

Thoughts are nothing, really. Just brain activity. If you watch your thoughts, you’ll notice that they are like clouds. They come, change and then dissolve. They only become harmful, sometimes even dangerous, when you believe them and allow yourself to get overwhelmed by them. So keep a healthy distance. Watch your frightening or angry thoughts, and tell yourself: ‘These are just thoughts. They are not the truth. My mind produces thoughts… but I’m not my thoughts. I'm my mind's master, not its slave. So I decide what thoughts I dismiss for the sake of my sanity, and what thoughts I like to believe and act upon.’

Step 4: Allow mindfulness into your life

Observing your stress-provoking thought process… and then not getting overwhelmed by it, is mindfulness. It’s not sitting on a cushion and doing some high-brow but inefficient mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is consciously deciding which thoughts are worthy of your attention, and which aren’t.

The power of mindfulness lies in your own mind

The game is quite simple. Don’t pay attention to thoughts that hold you back, diminish your self-confidence or turn you into the helpless victim of an unjust universe.

Just watch these thoughts, accept them, but then let them go.

Pay attention to thoughts:

  • that make you a better, more patient and loving person

  • that inspire you to be good to yourself and others

  • that encourage you to make the most of your talents

Be smarter than me… take stress seriously. Don’t wait for autoimmune disease to strike you down or depression to turn your world upside down. Instead, be strong and deal with stress before it starts to dominate your life.

Mindfulness is the only long-lasting way out of chronic stress since it helps you making a shift to permanently enhance your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Just try it and see for yourself.
Marisa x

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Download my new ebook for free and learn how to fight the frightening content of your thoughts, so that you can start unlearn mindless stress reactions and become more resilient and emotionally balanced. 

Marisa Garau