We can say that stress is definitely part of the today’s modern life – unfortunately. However, we can see big differences in the stress bearing capability of the people. Some are heavily impacted even by the smallest impulse, some can take in a lot. Some people don’t even notice that they are living in constant stress, some indeed do not encounter with it that regularly.
But where do these differences come from? Does it only depend on the individual in question?
The shorter answer is that basically the stress bearing capability of a person depends on various factors. According to several studies, for example that of the Harvard University, says that the upbringing of the individual plays a significant part in how this person as an adult will be able to manage stress.
In case a child has caring and nurturing parents, he/she will know that in case a stressful situation comes – which at that age can simply be being hungry, needing attention, security, etc. – the parents will be there to meet the needs and release the stress caused by the lack of it. This conditions the child to being able to bear stress during a certain amount of time, as they will know that eventually the need will be met. With this behaviour the parents teach their children, that they are safe and stress is not a long-lasting thing, therefore the effect of it can be countered. As a result, when this child grows up, they will be affected less by the stressful situations and they will also have their own healthy stress relief techniques to cope with it – as they learn it while growing up.
However, when a child has negligent parents, he/she is conditioned to their needs not being met. The parents ignore some (or more) basic needs of the child, let them be physical or emotional ones. These children are basically left in the stressful insecure situation on their own. Due to this, they learn that whatever they need, that will bring them stress, which cannot be coped with. When these children grow up, they will tend not to be able to manage stress and/or will use negative coping mechanisms.
As in many other areas of an adult’s life, the upbringing has a huge effect on the quality of life in this case as well. Stop here and now, and think a little:
- Would you consider your parents nurturing or negligent ones?
- When you were a child, whenever you had a need, was it absolutely normal for your parents to meet it, or did it cause frustration in them?
- As a child, did you dare to express your needs towards your parents and people around you? Or did you keep them inside, thinking that there is no point in saying them – as they will not be met anyways?
By answering these questions for yourself, you can have a clearer picture of which type of parents you grew up with.
How the children of negligent parents try to cope with stress?
First of all, I find it very important to disclose, that these former neglected children, now as adults, maybe are not even aware of that they are living in constant stress. As they got used to this state of mind and state of living from the very early childhood, living in constant stress is the baseline for them. But in this case the expression ‘baseline’ definitely doesn’t mean anything good. The fact of not being aware of the situation will still not allow these people to avoid the negative effects of stress on them. And these negative effects can be very harmful mainly on the long run, but sometimes even on the shorter run as well.
So, what are the negative effects of stress on the people?
I am sure you are already familiar with a lot from these. On the level of the body, stress can cause sleeping problems, fatigue, stomach issues, frequent headaches and migraine, muscle tensions and much more.
Once, I was having a coaching client, who had serious muscle tension issues for a very long time by the time he arrived to me. When on the coaching session I tried to dig deeper into the emotional part of his life – which was causing his pain – he turned into complete denial. He was sticking to the fact that his life is perfect, that he has no issues, it is just the muscle that aches (that much, that sometimes he couldn’t even move his arms upwards). By him telling me his life, it was obvious for me that there are very deep issues there, which he didn’t want to face. All these life issues were making him having constant anxiety and stress. These issues caused his muscle tensions, his body giving a big sign to him to change his life. However, he did not want to admit that there are things he would have needed to do differently.
In these cases what these once negligent kids – now adults – need to understand, that without a deeper emotional work such issues cannot be solved for once and for all. It is everyone’s right and free will to continue living in denial. But my question is: does it really worth it? Of course not.
But back to the effects of stress, let’s see what it can cause on the level of mood and behaviour of the people. As I partly mentioned it above, a straight forward and very serious effect is the anxiety. Which again, can be tricky to realise, that someone has it, if they have been having it all along their life so far. But these people can also feel lack of motivation, or being overwhelmed by even routine things. They can have anger issues or depression as well. In extreme cases it can result in not even wanting to go out to the world, not wanting to socialize, completely closing themselves off from the life out there.
Another real-life example I have seen myself was, that living in constant stress caused the deterioration of the memory. It happened to me that I was having a meeting with a colleague of mine in one of my former workplaces. During the one hour we discussed very important next steps in our work, which were relevant for the coming 2-3 months. A week later, on the next meeting, I referred back to what we agreed before. He was just staring at me. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. To be honest, I got scared a bit… How can it be that we talk about something for an hour and a week later he doesn’t remember any of it??
It took me a good while to realise, that this man was under such a huge stress and pressure, that it had this very-very serious negative effect on his memory. And of course, he didn’t even notice it – as most probably he was conditioned to such stressful circumstances all along his childhood as well. Which he has brought to his adulthood too.
In all these above cases, the negative coping mechanisms start to thrive – even subconsciously.
What are the negative coping mechanisms when it comes to stress management?
We all have seen these negative coping techniques. It can be the misuse of alcohol, drugs, over-eating or not eating enough, workaholism, binge usage of social media, regular binge-watching of movies/series, changes in the sex-drive (too much or too little) and also the transferring of the negative emotions on the people close to us. All of these have an indirect negative effect on the people around as well of course.
And the nastiest of it, is that even though these techniques seem to ease the stress of the individual, they actually only cover it up. As the stress bearing capability is not improved and no constructive method is used to get rid of it from the system, the stress only piles up. Eventually, this person will not feel better at all, only worse and worse.
Can the stress bearing capability be developed in adulthood?
The good news is: of course, it can be! Even if you had negligent parents in your childhood, you – as an adult now – can improve your stress bearing capability for yourself. But before going into the ‘how’ of this, there is one thing, which is very important. Let’s say, the step zero.
First and foremost, you need to be aware of all those factors in your life that are causing you stress.
Give yourself some alone time and think about them. Write them down. Also, write next to them, what the deeper reason can be of these situations causing you stress. Then, sort them out into 3 categories:
- I can change it completely
- I have some influence on changing it
- I cannot change it; it has to be accepted
This categorization helps you see clearly what you can do for yourself. All those stress factors in the 1st and 2nd category are the ones you will need to work with, instantly. Do what you can about these, to decrease their effect on your life.
Once your list of stress factors is consolidated, we can talk about the first step of improving your stress bearing capability.
Try to leave behind all the negative coping mechanisms that I mentioned above. Maybe you will actually feel worse for a little while, so it is very important that at the same time you implement new and positive techniques in your life.
These positive techniques can be doing (more) exercises, going to therapy, letting yourself enjoy life in the healthy way, allowing sufficient time for yourself to sleep, take long walks in the nature and on watersides, reach out to your friends. It is also a very good coping mechanism, if you start some creative activity – writing, painting, DIY, anything that brings you joy and can help you get rid of the stress. Art therapy exists for a reason.
What also helps a lot – in my own personal experience as well – is meditation. It is scientifically proved that if people start to meditate, it helps them create more neuron pathways in their brain. Which is a very useful thing, given that living under constant stress causes these pathways to deteriorate and disappear (and can lead to for example serious memory losses, like the example I mentioned above).
If you have never done meditation before, you can start it with baby steps. Start with shorter ones, even if only 5-10 minutes, and increase it along the way. You can choose from a lot of guided meditations on the internet and in mediation apps as well. Choose what you feel being the best for you. Do it regularly and you will see how much it helps you in keeping yourself more in our own centre and thus, being able to cope with stress a lot better.
All in all, we can say that completely avoiding stress in our life is not exactly possible. However, by consciously being aware of yourself, your reactions (body, mind and soul-wise as well) and by using the positive coping techniques you can significantly improve your quality of life!
Wishing a less stressful and more fruitful life to everyone!