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Mariah's avatar

Does anyone else have a fear of stress, and how do you combat it?

Asked by Mariah (24414points) October 5th, 2011

I am increasingly aware that I have developed a fear of stress. Throughout high school I battled a disease whose severity had a clear connection to my stress levels – I always got sick when I was overly stressed. Throughout most of high school, I also (stupidly) took the hardest classes available to me due to my rather rabid and irrational ambition. After going through a very severe bout of illness my junior year I finally decided to lay off on the obsessive achieving and I took easier classes my senior year, and I discovered that cutting myself some slack was quite enjoyable.

Now I’ve had surgery to correct my disease but there is still a strong connection in my mind between stress and dire consequences. I’m quite in the habit of believing that I must avoid stress at all costs. Not only that, but I finally discovered that even if I were a physically normal person, I really do not like the mental side of being stressed either; I so enjoyed getting to relax a bit during my senior year. I am aware that I used my illness as a crutch at times; I knew I needed to avoid stress for my physical health, and I secretly was glad I had that excuse because it was good for my mental health, too.

In January I’m going to college, and even though I never want to go back to being as intense as I used to be, I know that college is an innately stressful environment. And I want to have the full college experience, too, I want to join clubs and do extracurriculars while keeping my grades up; I don’t want to half-ass it. I find the prospect of such a fast-paced, high-energy future both envigorating and very frightening.

Have you ever dealt with a fear of stress? What was your experience like? How have you combated it? Even if you don’t have personal experience with this, do you have any advice to offer to me? I am getting therapy.

Thanks jellies.

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20 Answers

GabrielsLamb's avatar

I learned to glean clarity from stress. It sharpens my awareness to a fine honed point… which unfortunately because i am stressed, can sometimes translate as a weapon of choice.

So it is a mixed bag of tricks for me. Either way, it benefits you at times, and hurts you in others. Mostly it shouldn’t be paid much heed or encouraged either way.

Peace is the answer… How to find that? Well… when you find out let me know and then we will both know. LOL

Mariah's avatar

That’s an interesting insight, @GabrielsLamb. How did you learn to find clarity in stress? I’d love to learn to do the same.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Mariah Well I tend to function highly when under stress, I have never been a very laid back or easy going person. I am high energy everything, I speed read, I speed think, I speed process. I think it’s just my biology and by that I think when I am under stress, it is likened to a quick think response. I suppose it comes as a by-product of being on the defensive for most of my life, which is not really a good thing.

I have a great book selection for you to consider though, sometimes it helps to be better in tune with your own physical form. You might be surprised how many people operate with half of their sensory perceptions tuned down in the attempt at avoiding stress of awareness in cognition, they actually create more stress in those events that the lacking doesn’t afford them.

The book is called Neurospeak and it is by Robert Masters.

It is actually an excellent therapy method for people who have been in Wars and suffer PTSS. When you become more intune, hence sharpened by sensory compulsion, you can at times reduce stress as a counter action.

Try it.

Mariah's avatar

Ah, although it sounds like you developed that mental skill through adversity that I do not envy, I have to admit that I wish I were built that way. High energy and fast thinking and everything, that is. That’s not me at all. Thank you for the book recommendation. :)

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Mariah You do realize of course that being said, I would MUCh rather be more like you… Right?


SpatzieLover's avatar

The stress sounds to me to be a symptom of your anxieties @Mariah.

How are you at reducing your anxiety? Are you able to change your head script in the moment? Do you use a catastrophe scale?

Mariah's avatar

@GabrielsLamb I don’t mean to imply that it’s desirable to go through the hardships you’ve been through. Sorry about that. I just think it sounds like you have good coping skills. Of course coping skills only result, unfortunately, from coping with difficult things.

@SpatzieLover I’m only recently coming to terms with the fact that I do have some trouble with anxiety.
From past experience, I’m bad at reducing anxiety. In the moment, whatever’s stressing me feels like the worst thing ever and I don’t even usually feel a desire to stop worrying. I want to deal with the source of the worry, not the worry itself. I’ve never heard of a catastophe scale but I think I can infer from the name that it’s a way of telling myself that what’s going on isn’t really the end of the world(?)
I know this is how I’ve been with anxiety in the past but I’m not so sure it’ll be the same in the future. I’ve been through three surgeries now which ain’t no little thing, and I think I have a better idea now of what’s really important in life, and that getting that A on my test isn’t one of them. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail just to be able to go to college, so I hope I’ll be able to hold onto my appreciation of that fact rather than freaking out about every little thing at school. Still, I don’t expect my habits to change overnight and I am a bit concerned that, when thrust back into that environment, I’ll fall back into old routines and bad habits. I cannot tell you why schoolwork feels so important to me, it just does, it always has. I can logically recognize that it doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things, but I still have this compulsion to get perfect grades on everything. It’s idiotic.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Here’s an example of a 1 to 10 catastrophe scale:

An example of a one on the scale: You dropped a piece of chocolate on the floor…Do you eat it? (That’s what your mind’s dilemma is)

a five would be a family member has to fight an illness, but will survive it….or has been in a car accident but will pull through

an eight is a family member will die of a life threatening illness

a ten is an event of epic proportion (tsunami, earthquake, tornado) striking your town/block/home/family

It works best if you make the scale personal to you. That way you will be able to recall it, and employ it quickly every moment you need it. Before going back to school, I’d recommend you begin implementing the scale as frequently as you can. Use it in the car, at the store-etc.

Perfectionism is just you trying to logically control your anxiety. It’s quite a normal reaction. However, it is a reaction. It will take work for you to realize that if you reduce the anxiety, you won’t have the overwhelming amount of fear, and therefore won’t desire to be perfect.

This may sound strange but my recommendation would be to do a quick read of an anxiety book directed at kids at your local library. The kids books have the same info as the books directed toward adults, but they include more charts. The charts are much more useful as they are easier to recall. A good book, that I personally recommend is Anxiety-Free Kids.

I think everything you are experiencing is quite normal for as often as your world has been turned upside down. If you’re already realizing your anxiety about school is building, that to me sounds like a good thing. You’re identifying your thoughts and feelings. Now you just need to change your thought patterns so you can focus on the positive aspects, instead of allowing yourself to become overwhelmed.

Mariah's avatar

Thank you for the great advice, @SpatzieLover. I will keep your methods in mind and begin practicing them now. I still have three and a half months before going back to school so I hope to have my mind in better shape by then.

My only question is, what exactly is the goal of the catastrophe scale? To me it seems like it’s supposed to sort of give me a reality check and demonstrate that what I’m worrying about isn’t as earth-shattering as it might seem in the moment. Am I right about that?

SpatzieLover's avatar

It changes your perspective. Right now, your brain is jumping far ahead to the worst place, you release stress hormones, and possibly have an adrenaline rush…all because the stress took hold of your brain for longer than it should have.

If you instantly put a halt to it, you will, over time permanently alter the way in which you are handling not so stressful events in your daily life. In the beginning, it’s simple but not easy over time it will become simple and easy. Again, it takes practice.

Mariah's avatar

Thank you. :)

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Mariah I’m so glad you can focus on something other than your health :) I know it’s difficult to see how far you’ve come some days…But it’s amazing!

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Mariah No, no honey I didn’t take it like that at all… I was playing Urma Bombeck

“The grass is always greener over the septic tank.”

It seems we all want to be someone else feeling something other than we do, when many times people would rather be dealing with ANYTHING other than their own issues.

I was just being ironically stupid…. Not insensitive.

I realize that you struggle… and I apologize if I lessened that as it wasn’t my intent. I was trying to make you *Smile!

JLeslie's avatar

Fear of fear, which is how it is frequently coined, is very common. It explains how people eventually become agoraphobic, avoiding sitautions that might cause stress.

I think @SpatzieLover gave a great answer.

Hibernate's avatar

I am not fearing stress since I know how not to get stressed out. Things come and go. There’s a time for anything so if things go bad I just relax , and enjoy the “Show”. I wait for it to pass and I don’t stress because I don’t want to ruin my health too. Anyway at a point things will be good again. I do things to improve them but I don’t worry when sh*t hits the fans. In war and in life many will live and many will mourn. Take things as they are.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie I agree. Fear of fear…it’s a circular thought pattern where one is quite literally caught in fight or flight

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Sure, it’s called anxiety, for me.

escapadesofapoet's avatar

You could try and control the chance of you becoming stressed. Although not an ideal situation you could reduce the chances of you becoming stress by forward planning and good preparation. E.g. Don’t leave work until the last minute, don’t take on too much of a work load. But unfortunately there are too many factors which you can’t control. But at least you can reduce the areas which you can control…

noraasnave's avatar


Developing a cacophony of stressors, then you need a plethora of coping mechanisms.

Recent bad news about my health, was like an atomic bomb dropped on my heart. I turned all my coping mechanisms good and bad ‘ON’ and even sought a few more. I was giving up all the fun things in my life and let the responsibilities slip out of my hands without a second thought.

I started working out every morning, having a drink every night, picked back up journaling once a day, spoke to a network of friends and family ( some added to the stress), checked out a “_____ for Dummies” book to learn more about the medical condition, setup an appointment for a Licensed Professional Counselor, sought ways to cry (it wasn’t easy, found out it was easiest when holding my soulmate), stopped keeping up with my college coursework, and probably a few things I can’t recall.

I guess to sum up; i pretty much decided to fight the stress, to go head to head with it, in a fight to the death, and now that I am getting on the other side of it, I am picking stuff back up again, and naturally dropping some of the coping mechanisms that I couldn’t seem to live without just a few days ago.

I feel like I fell back into the net, built of all my relationships, and of all my coping habits, and am not being pushed back to my feet by the natural elasticity of the amalgamation.

I hope this helps!

Encountering stress is life, being controlled by it—is a choice one, normally, has.

Shippy's avatar

It sounds to me like you have a generalized anxiety disorder. Possibly treating that on its own will remove your fear of stress and enable you to cope better.

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