3 Types of Stress and How to Make Them Work For You

What’s stressing you out right now? Unpaid mortgage, your morning commute, or an overbooked schedule? These things are not in and of themselves stressful, although most of us perceive them to be. The complicated circumstances of life do not create stress; stress results from your response to them. Essentially, it comes from wishing something were different, worrying you can’t change it, and feeling stuck. Helplessness, frustration, and inaction result. But imagine if stress was a tool you could use to work for you, rather than against you.

Stress is a Good Thing!

We tend to perceive stress as a negative thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Often times stress is just a natural outcome of an increased desire for a better life. Stress symptoms can actually serve as an invaluable ally, an informing voice that tells us, “It’s time to do something.” The longer we try to ignore the voice, the louder and more persistent it gets. Listen to it, and learn to accept it as a positive force and motivator. The stresses in your life can act as a kind of wake-up call, or feedback from a good friend. It’s crucial to investigate the nature of your particular stresses to decide what the appropriate action should be.

3 Types of Stress

  1. Circumstantial Stress is stress that comes from painful circumstances that arise unexpectedly, like an illness or loss of someone dear, an accident or injury, or an extenuating circumstance that you have no control over. But that doesn’t mean you should act like the stress doesn’t exist. Time is the biggest factor in alleviating this type of stress, but acceptance and self care are also key. On the flipside, ignoring, denying, or glossing over unavoidable hardships almost always has a negative consequence, such as a burnout at work or a break down in a relationship.
  2. Life Management Stress involves all the responsibilities of the dreaded to-do list. This includes bills, appointments, arrangements, and many other tasks involved in making and spending money, having a family, and managing life as an adult. Although we’re used to complaining about the frustrations of handling these aspects of our lives, there are always solutions. Consider your relationship between talking and doing when it comes to your to-do list. Rather than complain about constantly misplacing your car keys, devise a spot to put them every time you come home. If you’re overwhelmed about work deadlines and deliverables, speak up and ask for help. Confessing and claiming ownership of your stress gives you the power to do something about it. Some choices may be difficult, such as choosing to rein in spending habits or saying no to some social engagements, but they are always there. Your solutions are yours to design and fulfill.
  3. Inner Dialogue Stress is the one that few people talk about. This is the scary, emotional one that lives within the context of your inner dialogue, and it’s all fueled by fear. Fear that, underneath it all, you aren’t capable, or lovable, or that your marriage is no longer working, or that you aren’t good at your job, or that you will get a terrible illness. The running list of secret fears and bad theories is long and complex, but this is where stress can be used as a tool for improving your quality of life. What you think about, you bring about, and there are techniques I teach to re-train your mind and feel better just by thinking. One way is with a negative consequence: Perhaps you should agree to throw a dollar out of the car window every time you catch yourself dwelling on a negative thought for longer than a minute. A “no harping” rule has a radical effect on stress.

Call to Action

You can learn to view your worries as an alert that means you need to take action to feel better. When you actually go to the gym, make the phone call you’ve been putting off, or pay the bill that’s weighing you down, you will feel immediate relief. You will have heard what the stress is telling you and responded to it. Inaction breeds guilt and anxiety. Taking action builds personal integrity.

Stress is an unavoidable aspect of being alive. How you deal with it determines the type of life you have. I have spent 20 years coaching thousands of clients on this singular subject, built an international coaching and consulting company, and developed a proven method that I teach in schools, universities, weekend workshops, and telecourses.

We offer free 30 minute coaching sessions for you to give it a test run! Schedule your session today, choose any area of focus, and see what this type of coaching can do to help you design a plan of action that makes you incredibly proud and happy — and way less stressed out!

Lauren Zander is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.