What’s your stress threshold?

stress-meter-2

Recently, a fellow blogger asked an excellent question regarding tipping points and stress response.

They were curious to know if each of us has a tipping point when it comes to stress management.

And if so, how does it differ from person to person.

I love questions like this because they encourage me to dig deep, reflect, and imagine new ways of perceiving stress.

Stress Thresholds

Tipping points and thresholds are often used synonymously in the literature. Especially when discussing economic, historical, and ecological phenomenon.

That said, there is a clear distinction between thresholds and tipping points in psychological applications.

Thresholds are more individual (unique to each person), while tipping points are more universal (shared by the majority).

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Which is why I see each person’s stress response as more of a stress threshold than a tipping point.

  • Thresholds vary from person to person (e.g., Type A vs. Type B), situation to situation (e.g., Work vs. Personal), and are based on individual strengths, challenges, and personal history.

See diagram above to help understand how thresholds affect your individual stress response. This graphic also depicts why a certain level of stress (below threshold) can be good for you.

  • Assess when you cross the threshold from your optimal stress zone (eustress) into your overload stress zone (distress).

positivestress

Situational Stress, Anxiety, and Thresholds

We may be good at some things, but we are not great at everything.

For example, the more challenging academic work is for me (high stress threshold) the more I flourish. Mostly because this is my area of expertise.

While this is not the case with other areas of my life (low stress threshold) and thus I tend to react (too quickly) when under pressure in certain personal situations.

In addition to overall stress response patterns, thresholds differ from one situation to the next.

Situational fluctuations in thresholds reflect our strengths, challenges, and personal preferences.

I discuss the topic of situational stress and anxiety in more detail during my Mental Health Matters Interview with Dr. Garland.

positive-stress-cycle

From Negative to Positive Stress

Finally, I believe that our ability to cope and thrive under pressure is a lifelong practice. Something that is never mastered – only strengthened.

And the more we learn about life and ourselves, the higher our thresholds will become. As the majority of our stress is beating ourselves up – long after the stressor is gone.

3 C’s of Thriving Under Pressure

Reflection Questions About Stress

  1. How does your stress threshold differ from others?
    • Compare your personal stress threshold to family members, friends, coworkers.
      • Are you the most high strung of your siblings?
      • Are you the most carefree teacher in the school?
  2. In what situations is your stress threshold higher vs. lower?
    • Compare your situational stress threshold across multiple settings.
      • When do you stress out at work?
        • Is it only during public presentations?
      • In contrast, when are you more relaxed relaxed and easy going?
        • Are you more relaxed during independent work?
  3. What are the benefits of stress and pressure in your life?
    • When has stress been good for you?
      • e.g., motivating and energizing
    • How has pressure helped you achieve your goals?