It’s useful to think of the stress we are exposed to as being in layers. The outer most layer would include the impact of worrying international news such as natural disasters, climate change or international terrorism. Then there is the stress in our local communities that can include crime in our area, and our work insecurities or pressure. The next level are much more personal issues such as financial worries, the quality of our relationships in our own family, our friends and available support and so on. Then we get to a more physical level which includes our own health and physical resilience and our own personality characteristics which have developed through our own life and background experience.
Much of our stress resiliency has been developed through our life experiences. Some of us have been very lucky in either not being exposed to high levels of sustained stress or in having some helpful, positive life experiences which have left us well equipped to deal with the more difficult life experiences we encounter.
There are increasing numbers of unfortunate situations in which people are subjected to a number of difficult experiences in a relatively short period of time or where they have to deal with emotional overload due to family disaster such as death, severe injury or illness. Sometimes there are simply not enough supports around and it can become very difficult to cope with life stressors. Every person has their own limit as to what they can endure.
As psychologists and counsellors we, like everyone else, have also had to cope with many different types of life stress. However, most of us have been fortunate in that we haven’t had to experience the same high levels of stress that many of our clients have had to endure. We are also especially lucky in that we are able to tap into some of the research around questions such as: “What makes a person resilient under stress?” “What are the best stress solutions for times of unavoidable high stress? and “How do we come to terms with high stress events or trauma from our past?” With this knowledge and experience we are able not only to help our clients develop better stress management skills but to also develop skills in conflict resolution, goal setting, finding their resiliency and to develop skills that help them find their optimal levels of performance.