How You React To Stress

Explanation of stress, stress reduction and relaxation techniques. Understanding anxiety provoking stress.

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook

Stress is an everyday fact of life. You can't avoid it.

Stress is any change that you must adjust to. While you usually think of stressful events as being negative, such as injury, illness, or death of a loved one, they can also be positive. For instance, getting a new home or a promotion brings with it the stress of the change of status and new responsibilities. Falling in love can be as stressful for some people as falling out of love. All stress is not bad. Stress is not only desirable but essential to life.

Whether your stress experience is a result of major life changes or the cumulative effects of minor everyday hassles, it is how you react to stressful experiences that can create a stress response.

You experience stress from three basic sources:

  1. your environment
  2. your body
  3. your thoughts

Your environment bombards you with demands to adjust. You must endure weather, noise, crowding, interpersonal demands, time pressures, performance standards, and various threats to your security and self-esteem.

The second source of stress is physiological. The rapid growth of adolescence, menopause in women, again, illness, accidents, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and sleep disturbances all tax the body. Your reaction to environmental threats and changes also produce body changes which are themselves stressful.

The third source of stress is your thoughts. Your brain interprets and translates complex changes in your environment and determines when to push the panic button. How you interpret, perceive, and label your present experience and what you predict for the future can serve either to relax or stress you. Interpreting a sour look from your boss to mean that you are doing an inadequate job is likely to be very anxiety provoking. Interpreting the same look as tiredness or preoccupation with personal problems will not be as frightening.

Stress researcher, Richard Lazarus, has argued that stress begins with your appraisal of a situation. You first ask yourself what is happening and why (causality). Then, to determine the situation's significance for your well being, you ask how dangerous it is and what resources you have to cope with it. Anxious, stressed people often decide that:

  1. an event is dangerous, difficult, or painful; or
  2. they don't have the resources to cope.

Working on these issues in a positive way, will give you the confidence that you can cope.


next: Thoughts That Trigger Anxiety and Anger and Can Ruin Relationships
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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, March 21). How You React To Stress, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: May 5, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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