Successful and Stressed

Success can be measured in many different ways but even those who “have it all” — money family, status, fame, etc. — are subject to stressors. You may be feeling irritable, tired, sad or anxious — or, a combination of some of all of these. Perhaps you have trouble sleeping. Even balancing a great, high-paying career with the demands of a loving family can involve stress. In a way, having money can evoke as much stress as not having it.

Many surveys show that Americans perceive that they are under more stress now than in the past. And while jobs tend to be a major source of stress, stress levels in children, teens, college students and the elderly have also risen. Everyday situations like getting stuck in traffic, disputes with colleagues, friends or family members can be stress inducing. If the stress level becomes fairly constant, the result can be fatigue, hypertension, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, ulcers, neck or back pain, impairment of the immune system, etc.

However, except for a catastrophe, events are usually not inherently stressful. Stress results when you merely perceive an event or situation to be threatening. It can derive from traumatic, early childhood experiences, which have become internalized and, therefore, remain painful by association in the present.

The body’s response to stress is designed to give us the ability to react by either fleeing from or confronting the danger. This is known as the “fight” or “flight” response. When stressed, numerous physical reactions are activated as your body quickly switches into high gear. When you’re in danger, the hypothalamus, a small area at the base of the brain, sets off an alarm system, prompting the adrenal glands to release an increased level of hormones, mostly adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases the heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol increases glucose in the bloodstream and the availability of substances that repair tissues. It also curbs functions not necessary for or detrimental to a fight-or-flight situation. Immune system responses are altered and the digestive system, reproductive system and growth processes are suppressed. When the danger or crisis has passed, the body allows itself to return to normal functioning.

Long term stress — and thus, exposure to the long term elevation of cortisol and other stress hormones — can have a major impact on your body resulting in risk of obesity, insomnia, digestive problems, heart disease, depression, physical illness, a weakened immune system, lowered sex drive, memory loss, etc.

Psychological threats like the stress associated with work issues, interpersonal relationships, major life changes or loss of a loved one, can set off the same alarm system in your body. The less control you believe you have, the more stress you’ll feel. Stress can also be generated from within, for example, if you seek perfection or have unrealistic expectations of yourself or others. Whatever the source, there are ways to take physical and emotional care of yourself — exercise, relaxation, healthy eating, support of the people around you, a medical consult if you have physical symptoms and psychotherapy with a trained professional.

No one can avoid stress altogether but you can learn to identify what causes stress for you and why, as well as how to cope better. To that end, it’s often helpful to otherwise not be able to recognize

Where does your stress derive from?

External factors: 

  • The state of the world or your community
  • Unpredictable events
  • Job related issues
  • Family
  • Friends

Internal factors:

  • Need for perfection
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of self care
  • Need for self punishment

Symptoms of stress:

  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of running away
  • Loss of objectivity
  • Inability to slow down thought process
  • Headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Changes in sleep or eating habits
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin problems
  • Weight gain or less
  • Hair loss
  • For women, missed periods
  • Immune system suppression
  • Chest pain, irregular heartbeat
  • Less interest in social activities
  • Sudden mood shifts
  • Frustration, anger, resentment, irritability
  • Feeling Overwhelmed
  • Depression
  • Wish to cry
  • Isolating yourself
  • Reactions inappropriate to the situation
  • Exhibiting road rage
  • Grinding your teeth

And many more. Note that the signs and symptoms of tress can be caused by other physical and psychological problems, so it’s important to consult a doctor to determine any physical foundation that may exist.